When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
I wish I could say I had an epiphany, or that I always knew it was my life’s calling, but it was nothing that dramatic. I graduated with my B.S. in Mathematics degree from Harding University and went to graduate school at the University of Louisville. My husband was transferred to Georgia for his job before I graduated, and being newlyweds, I came to Georgia! Trying to enroll in classes became difficult, and I finally enrolled in an educational exploration-type class at the University of West Georgia just to get my foot in the door. As a requirement of the class, I observed teachers at a local high school. One of them suggested I try teaching as a career and I have never looked back.
What keeps you in the classroom?
The look on a student’s face when the light bulb comes on. The light in a student’s eye when they simplify their first trig identity – all by themselves. The emails from students who graduated years before, thanking me for making them study. The pennants hanging in my classroom that remind me where my students have gone to college, and that tells me they remember me. The phone call at 8:30 at night about a homework question, because it means not only is she doing her homework, but that she cared enough to ask about it.
What character qualities make great teachers?
I think that some characteristics are unique to specific grade levels and that others are universal. Empathy, compassion, and patience are all necessary for any teacher. At the high school level, a great teacher must have a love of content. It is impossible to impart a love of something that you do not love. Another quality of an outstanding teacher is the ability to admit when one is wrong. Showing your students that you are human creates a vulnerability that a great teacher can use to pull the best out of her students. Great teachers do not decide who a student is before the child shows who they are.
What is your favorite part of the school year? Why?
As a teacher of seniors, I probably enjoy the beginning of the spring semester the most. My seniors are making their final decisions as to where they are choosing to go to school, or which branch of the military they are entering, or which career path to pursue. The first Wednesday in February is National Signing Day, and it is always exciting to watch young people commit to extending their education through athletics.
What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
My first year teaching, in a Pre-Algebra class, I was trying to teach adding like terms. My students were struggling and kept trying to combine different variables. After explaining it as many ways as I could think of, I finally threw up my hands and said – you just can’t add apples and oranges. I will never forget the young man in the front row who didn’t miss a beat when he responded, “Why not? Snapple does!”
What is your favorite technology to use for engaging students in learning?
I think mixing things up is the key to student engagement. Whether it's playing KAHOOT where students use their phones or iPads, passing the Mobi around for them to write out solutions, or even me modeling keystroking with the online graphing calculator, no one piece of technology will engage every student every day. An effective teacher knows her students and can gauge what to utilize and when.
Everyone likes to know the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
Three mornings a week, I get up at 4:20 to run and attend boot camp. Running relaxes me and allows me to focus on specifics for the day. The other two mornings I sleep until a little after 6. The main constant between 6 and 7 is coffee. I like to be at school between 7 and 7:15, although our report time is 8. I need the quiet time to organize myself, to prepare my classroom – to prepare me!
What do you tell students when they need encouragement?
Encouraging students is nearly impossible if you do not know them. Building relationships early in the school year is critical because each student is unique and needs something different from me. I try to mention specifics about the child.
If he did not get accepted to the college he wanted, I talk about the positives of choice number 2. If there is trouble with a boyfriend, I am sympathetic while reminding them that it’s high school, and there is an entire world of people who will appreciate her for who she is. When it’s because a parent is ill or worse, sometimes I just have a shoulder for them to use. I try very hard not to use clichés or trite words.
Being genuine with high school students is more important than anything!
What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
I ask them to remember why they entered the profession. Everyone gets discouraged at some point during a 180-day school year. We certainly do not teach for the money or for the glory. Remembering the love for teaching, the love of young people, or the love of changing lives that brought you to where you are – it has always put a smile on the face of the person I am talking to. That changes the tone of the conversation and makes it easier to deal with whatever the issue is. I will confess that sometimes the best encouragement, especially during a week like Homecoming, is that it’s almost Friday!