Susan Donlin teaches at Marietta Middle School in Marietta City Schools and is one of ten Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists. Learn more about what she loves during the school year and how she helps students to realize their potential:
When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
I was a Red Cross volunteer when I was 16 and worked in a summer program for kids with intellectual disabilities. When I helped a 10-year-old boy learn to tie his shoes and ride his bike, I knew I had found my calling.
What keeps you in the classroom?
A combination of my relationship with my students and the joy that I get in seeing them gain independence through the school year keeps me returning year after year.
What character qualities make great teachers?
Great teachers see the good qualities in each and every student, including students with very low academics or severe behavior issues. In order to help students progress, you must not only know their deficits, but their strengths as well. You must utilize their strengths to help them grow.
What is your favorite part of the school year? Why?
I love that point a month or so into the year when the kids all know the class routine, I have learned what makes them tick, and classroom instruction really takes off.
What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
Upset student: “He called me the E word”
Me: “Honey, I don’t know the E word”
What is your favorite technology to use for engaging students in learning?
The most crucial technology for our classroom are the various communication devices used by some of my students, but all of my students enjoy using interactive SmartBoard activities that I have created. When creating the activities, I incorporate individual student’s favorite songs, movie characters, or cartoons. When students select the correct answer on the SmartBoard, the pictures spin, cheer, or play their favorite song.
Everyone likes to know the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
I like to start my day by going to the gym. I either swim, use the track or workout with my trainer. I shower and dress at the gym and head to school, where I meet my kiddos at the bus and we have breakfast together in our kitchen.
What do you tell students when they need encouragement?
When a student needs encouragement, I point out the things that they do well. If they are having difficulty with a particular task, I highlight the part of the task that they do well and provide support for the part of the task that is giving them difficulty.
What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
When a teacher needs encouragement, I highlight the parts of the job in which they excel. We all have areas that need improvement, but while we strive to improve on those areas, we need to take pride in the parts of the job that we do well.