What makes your school unique?
How did you first get into education?
I started as a business major at IU and took an interest in inventory that helped me look into switching my major to education. I worked at the IU Bookstore to earn spending money. While there I met another girl, who was majoring in elementary education. After talking with her and helping her with her assignment, I decided I might have something to offer to future elementary school students.
When I was in school, I was one of those kids that loved school so much, I would rather go to school sick than have to stay home and miss out on something! As an education major, I decided t wanted to become a teacher that would provide those same kinds of experiences to my students! Growing up in Bloomington, I had so many wonderful teachers. They were the reason I wanted to go to school every single day. They made learning and being in school so fun and exciting.
Favorite Moment with your student over the years-
I’ve been lucky to have so many…You know that saying “Kids say the darndest things!”? I have never forgotten the time during my first year of teaching, we used to put on our coats at the old University School to go everywhere because each grade level was housed in a separate building that was connected by sidewalks. One time I was lining up my first graders to walk to the lunchroom with their coats on. I noticed one little girl also put on her backpack. I asked her why? She replied, “I’m getting ready to go home!” When I had to let her know we weren’t going home but instead were going to lunch, she replied with her hands on her hips “Who the h** signed me up for this anyway?!”
Another year I had a thirteen-year-old boy who wore a size thirteen shoe in my classroom. This was an unusual situation where had been adopted by a Bloomington family after they had seen a special hosted by Diane Sawyer about the ongoing drought in Mali, Africa. He and his family were nomads and camel herders. My job was to teach him to read and write well enough to be moved to a third-grade class as soon as possible so that eventually he could be placed in a sixth-grade classroom with students closer to his age. He had never been to school before but was a very eager learner. After arriving late one morning he carried a note for me. He was trying to apologize (in very few words and drawings). The reason he was late was that he had been up all night helping to deliver a baby camel! I found out later that day, the local couple that adopted both him and his brother lived on the Southwest side of Bloomington on a very large piece of property. To help their newly adopted sons feel more at home, in the United States the parent was raising a small herd of camels on their farm. not your average late for school excuse)
Another time, I had an extremely challenging year due to having a class with more than the normal amount of students who were dealing with academic, emotional, and behavioral issues. At the same time, I learned both of my aging parents were very ill. My father was diagnosed with ALS (Lon Gehrig Disease) and my mother with Alzheimer's Disease. To my surprise, many of my student’s parents had secretly gotten together to plan a surprise celebration for me on the last day of school. At the end of the day, they had me sit in a chair in the front of the room where they surrounded me with a special song, they had written about me, our school year together and their favorite memories, and they were all wearing sunglasses! I found out later they had been secretly meeting after school to write and sing this song just for me! They also had collected and presented me with a huge gift bag filled with things to pamper myself with and to help me relax over the summer. (Included in the bags were things like a beach towel, suntan lotion, magazines, crosswords puzzles, and even a pair of plane tickets for me and my husband!) I found out later that they were worried I quit teaching and they were trying to cheer me up so I would feel better and be sure to return to school in the fall.
How did you feel when you won the award?
Honestly, when I answered my classroom phone and saw the outside, local phone number, my first thought was it was someone calling to tell me I was next in line to get a Covid-19 vaccine! When I realized it was someone calling from the Chamber, not the Convention Center- I think in disbelief I said “Wow” and then “I’m very flattered!”
What’s One Piece of Advice You’ve Received from a mentor?
It was from Ruth Richardson, my supervising teacher at Broadview Elementary School where I did my student teaching experience in First Grade in the fall of1984.
No matter what we see and hear at school, you never know what your students’ lives are like at home. School might just be the best part of their day. (I’ve always remembered that piece of advice and have found it to be oh so true.) A school is a safe place for many children who might not always feel safe physically and emotionally elsewhere. Thirty-five years ago, when I first began my career we weren’t teaching SEL, Equity, and Social Justice standards. The paperwork/ report card you receive about a student is not their whole story. There are usually a lot more going on in their lives than I know. It’s important to try to form a relationship with each end of my students and their families.
What advice do you have for future teachers?
Don’t wait until Parent/Teacher conferences/October to contact a parent or for when there is a problem. Find a way that is comfortable for you to get to know parents early on. Teachers and parents have to work together to make sure their student has a successful school year.
Years ago, I started “Get to Know You Conferences” with my students’ parents. In August/September reach out and be proactive. Have a mini parent/teacher conference where they get to tell you everything you need to know about their child. Take notes on strengths and challenges, and 1-2 goals they have for their child during the school year. Listen to them. The time and energy you put in early will pay off all year long and it will put the parents at ease because they have met their child’s teacher face to face.
Looking back on your career what are you most proud of?
When students send a letter/email or call or even show up to visit to tell me about things they remembered doing in my class. (a specific lesson or activity). That’s when I know I’ve had a positive impact and have made a difference. It’s the best feeling to know that your actions or words have changed the trajectory of a student’s life. That I did the “right thing”. You can’t put that feeling in words.
Who is the greatest teacher you’ve ever witnessed? What set them apart? For me, I can’t name just one. I have been blessed to work with so many phenomenal teachers and administrators throughout my career. I have been able to work with and have learned from many, many talented, kind and caring professionals in the field of education. They all took the time to get to know me, mentor me, and were willing to share their knowledge and expertise with me. They have reached out to offer their support in many forms and they encouraged me to continue to grow.
What has been the biggest challenge as an educator during today’s climate? (Covid-19, virtual learning etc..) How have you responded?
In the Spring of 2020, my principal needed a teacher to move to first grade-He asked me and I said yes.
I switched classrooms over the summer. I moved to a different grade level. I spent any free time I had learning how to use Canvas, Microsoft Teams, zoom, and working with/ learning from other teachers to be prepared for the beginning of the school year during a pandemic. My first-grade team got together (socially distancing of course) at a team member's house. Some even worked in her driveway, all helping each other try to prepare for everything and anything. The online part is the biggest challenge for me, not teaching in proximity with my students. Proximity plays a big part in teachings, communicating with any managing a classroom full of children. We have all been working double-time to continually prepare for in person learning, while also creating our online courses. Another big challenge has been establishing small group meetings and one on one meetings, getting to know parents and trying to make it feel personable.
A plus (+) I learned is that you use teams/Zooms to meet face to face with parents and they don’t have to travel to school!
Another plus I learned is that students with extended absences can access lessons they miss and assignments virtually!
A big inequality is that not all families have internet access or quality access.
How would you define strong classroom leadership?
Be firm, friendly, yet flexible. Have clear expectations. It’s important to be consistent yet compassionate with behavior management strategies. Above all, build “community” in your classroom with your students and parents. Strong leaders facilitate learning in their classroom.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from the students you work with?
Be very mindful with the words you use. Children can take things very literally. The quote from Hiam Gianott- “I’ve come to the very frightening conclusion in my classroom…that I am the decisive element in my classroom.” always helps me remember that the word and actions we choose to use with children are very important.
Beyond education-How are you involved in the community?
Give 1-2 words/phrases students will us to describe you-
“Mrs. H cares about me!” “Mrs. H love animals, especially dogs and cats!” “Mrs. H keeps us safe.” “She makes school fun!” “My teacher is easy to talk to if I have a problem or need help.” “My teacher is silly!”
What lessons do you hope students take away from your classroom?
How can business and community members help to improve education in Monroe County?
Contact the MCCSC Administration Building and ask to speak with someone who can tell you about the different initiatives our school corporation is currently working on.
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