Why did you choose the field of education as a career?
I started my professional life in the business world, but when I began volunteering in schools as a mentor and literacy coach everything in my life changed. I chose the field of education because I was passionate about using my energy and talents to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. I went back to graduate school, jumped into the classroom, and never looked back. In the last 16 years, I have taught over 2,000 students in grades 7-12. Every single one has left an imprint on my heart. My students simply amaze me with their courage, perseverance, creativity, intelligence, and humor, and it is for them that I teach and continue to learn each day.
Choose three words to describe your educational philosophy that guides you as an educator.
Three words that describe my educational philosophy and guide me as an educator are growth, relationships, and engagement. My focus is always on continuous learning and growth--substantive, enduring changes in students’ thinking and the ways in which they relate to their world. For them to be ready to embark on that kind of transformational journey, strong personal relationships grounded in trust are the foundation. Finally, in every lesson or learning experience I design, I strive to engage students by connecting to their experiences, piquing their curiosity, and igniting a passion for our studies. Only when all three of these are working together can students achieve their personal best.
What would you identify as your greatest success(es), especially in light of the current environment?
My greatest success, especially in light of our current challenges, is developing strong and supportive relationships with my virtual students and their families. Everything else we work to accomplish as educators--engagement, academic growth, deeper learning, the development of real-world skills--are all built on the foundation of strong relationships between teacher and student, home and school, and among our community of learners. The isolation of the pandemic and the challenges of an all-virtual learning experience made this a unique challenge, but one that I am especially proud of working through every day with the support of a world-class team.
What is your favorite quote/saying?
My favorite saying is: The struggle makes us stronger. In my first few years in the classroom, one of my wonderful teaching mentors gave me a butterfly magnet and “The Story of the Butterfly.” In this short poem, a man watches as a butterfly struggles to emerge from its cocoon. In an effort to help speed the process along, he snips away the cocoon with scissors, but the butterfly’s wings are shriveled and it is unable to fly. In his kindness, the man doesn’t realize that by removing the butterfly’s struggle, he is also taking away its opportunity to develop its wings. In teaching, this lesson is an incredibly important one that I think about every day. Every time I face a challenge, I remember that working through it is an essential part of my journey. Likewise, our students need to be challenged and engage in productive, supported struggle in order to learn and grow.
What is the most rewarding part of your profession?
The most rewarding part of my profession is working with students. There are undoubtedly challenging moments in the classroom, whether that is in a brick and mortar school building or in a virtual environment, but there is something endlessly magical about helping a student grow, change, mature, and develop skills and mindsets they never thought possible. Those light bulb moments, new accomplishments, and virtual high-fives make it all worthwhile.
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