Why did you choose the field of Education for a career?
I have always loved learning and working with people. By the age of 16, I felt reasonably confident that education was my destiny. Many of my mentors motivated me to pursue a career in teaching. As I continued working on my degree in education and exploring my interests in music and sports, I found myself serving in leadership and teaching roles in all three areas. However, teaching was my passion. I loved learning and helping others grow and learn. My goal in becoming a teacher has always been to support and nurture a community of lifelong learners. Schools play such an important role in our society. I believe teachers are responsible for helping children develop the skills and values needed to succeed and be successful community members. When our schools and teachers are provided with needed resources, our children grow. When our children succeed, our communities and our country reap the benefits.
Choose three words to describe the educational philosophy that guides you as an educator.
It is essential to reach every child by understanding who they are, where they come from, and what they need to be successful while making learning enjoyable. With that said, I have three words/phrases that embody my philosophy: Nurture, Community, and Multiple Learning Styles. Because my students can come from different backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, races, and cultures, it is essential that I first build an environment of trust and understanding in my classroom. I believe that the sooner our children feel nurtured and experience their classroom as a safe place to learn, grow, and achieve, the sooner walls come down and learning can occur. Then, it becomes easier to focus on their individual goals and create classroom community goals.
Facilitating and varying curricular activities that ensure student learning and appeals to different learning styles is also central to my educational philosophy. I value cooperative learning and see my students as not only learners but for teachers as well. I have learned that by differentiating and providing a supportive learning environment, my students intuitively help each other and see themselves as part of a community of learners. They all recognize that they have strengths and weaknesses and can contribute and help each other.
What is one piece of advice you would give a person entering into the education field during this unprecedented time?
During these unprecedented times of uncertainty, to ensure students learning, I would advise our new educators to create a framework that uses technology to bring your standards, mastery skills, and learning objectives alive. With the recent devastation of our country's shut down last March, there has been an evolutionary shift and growth in education through technology. This year, I entirely switched roles to create a curriculum that is 100% online. I took full advantage of the new technologies. Yes, I had to learn a lot, but it was all worth it. Consider a professional presence on social media, teach your students about online activities, and take advantage of online conferences. Finally, build connections with your school's technical staff, educators online and in your school community, and even educators outside of your school community, know your resources. This will help you learn and meld both in-person strategies and online aspects. I would remind our new educators to set a goal to try and learn and incorporate one new technology resource weekly, once a month, or once a grading period. The important thing is not to become idle and to continue to learn and grow at a manageable pace.
What would you identify as your greatest success, especially in light of the current environment?
Although I was excited to begin this year filled with new opportunities for the students that could not attend school in person for one reason or another, there were many challenges. Unlike our junior high and high school, which purchased a curriculum program, the elementary schools created the curriculum from scratch. It was a daunting task, and not many teachers wanted to take on this challenge. In reality, the small team of virtual educators spends every day, almost every night, and many, many, many weekends working hard to create, find, support, and learn new ways to reach our online learners. My success came by looking at this challenge as an opportunity. My opportunity was to revamp, redesign, and develop a new way of facilitating the learning experience by transforming our paper-pencil-driven classrooms of the past to using technology in meaningful ways to facilitate learning. This opportunity has strengthened my belief that technology can foster growth and interests in our children. I also believe that it can better prepare them to meet the future challenges in our ever-changing technological world.
Anything else you would like to share?
This school year has brought unique opportunities for our school corporation and me to create a new educational experience for our students who could not attend school in person. With our principals' backing, the technology integration coach, Meighan Scott, we brainstormed ways to create our virtual program and the curriculum. We knew this program would need to engage, develop and help our students and families learn and succeed. When thinking about creating the best learning environment that I could make for my students, it was essential to create a space that facilitated academic excellence and was built on community, collaboration, meaningful and engaged learning, as well as determination and dedication. It was also important to me that I empower each child to be a learning leader. Once that takes place, I feel confident sending them on to the next level, where I hope they all continue to push themselves in these roles and create more opportunities for themselves.
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