Grades Taught: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Currently Teaching: 3rd Grade
Years teaching: 14
Years at Telesis: 16
Bachelors in Pedagogy in Education
After School Program Director
Primary Team Liaison
Process Champions Committee
Summer School Director
A. I think each grade that I have taught has been my favorite at the time. First grade is fun because they are exploring in their learning. They love school and their teacher. Second grade they are gaining their own personality and still love learning new things. They get to start cursive and that is always fun for them. Third grade they are now moving to being in charge of their learning. They are also becoming more independent thinkers. This is a very cool process to watch.
Q. Why did you become a teacher?
A. Mr. Smith, my third grader teacher, really helped his students to love reading. I remember when he got us (his students) excited about the Mouse and a Motorcycle books by Beverly Cleary. My grandma was also a huge influence in making me become a reader. I am a reader because of my grandma and I am a teacher because of Mr. Smith.
I had been the librarian at Telesis for two years, I started in 2002. In 2004, Dr. Breece told me that she needed a teacher. I had a two-year degree at the time, but I could stay on as a teacher if I finished my four-year degree within three years. I finished in 18 months with NAU. I took 21 units each semester, and I did summer classes — all while working full time and taking care of my children.
Q. What grades did you teach at that time?
A. I started out teaching 1st and 2nd . In those early days of Telesis, grades were combined. It wasn’t “first and second grade”, it was called, “early elementary”. It wasn’t called “kindergarten”, it was called “developmental kindergarten”. So, at that time I had traditional first, and second graders in my classroom, all at one time. It was sometimes hard because you would teach four completely different reading groups.
Q. Why do you like teaching?
A. I love the kids. I love that moment where they say, “Wow! I’ve got it!” That exciting “light bulb” moment that teachers talk about is real. Sometimes that light bulb is flickering, and the child is not quite getting it, but all of a sudden there is that “A Ha!” moment. There is a great book called, “Leo the Late Bloomer”. Leo is just a late bloomer, but when he starts to speak, he starts using all of these great words. Some of these kids really are just late bloomers, but when that light finally goes off, it really brings tears to my eyes – because they can see it and I can see it – and it is just a fantastic moment.
Q. What concepts or subject area is usually the time you see that “A-ha!” moment happening?
A. I think it’s easier to see in math because math is concrete and it’s about patterns. With reading, it’s harder because the English language is super hard and it doesn’t make sense – there are so many rules.
However, with reading, I think when kids find that book or book series that they like, they become real readers. I believe every kid is a reader, but I don’t think every kid has found that one book they like which makes them love reading.
That’s why it’s important for parents to expose their kids to different types of stories and genres. Even if they just buy the Highlights magazine. Taking them to the library to get their first library card is a big deal, too. Let them go to the library and let them pick out books that they want to read, within reason, and they will eventually become readers when they discover the type of reading they like to do.
Q. How does the profession give back to you when teachers give so much?
A. My niece is going into teaching and she is just finishing up her first year of college. She wants to be a teacher because her Aunt Flo is a teacher, but I don’t know why some people want to become teachers right now. It takes a certain person to be a teacher. It’s not physical labor, but it’s an emotionally draining job. Some days, with those “A-ha” moments, you get your emotional fill over and over. But some days, at the end of the day, you have given out everything that you’ve got.
At the same time –I think that if you love kids, and you really want to see them learn, and you know that maybe you’re the only adult in that kid’s life that is really there for them, then you are cut out to be a teacher.
Think about being a parent. It’s super hard being a parent, and as a parent, sometimes you aren’t always in the moment with your kids or really listening to what they have to say or paying attention. As a teacher, you have to be in that moment all the time – because to that little kid, you might be the only adult who understands and listens to them. Even that little greeting, or “Hey, where are your glasses?” – those things that show you are paying attention and you care – are things that they will remember.
I remember when Mr. Smith noticed things about me when my own parents were going through their divorce, and that really made me feel like I was important. Kids need to feel like they are important.
Q. What’s the most important thing you want your students to take away from you or your class?
A. School is hard, but it can be fun. I think kids need to learn how to work. My grandparents and my dad taught me and siblings that it was important to work – that everything we got, we earned. So, I want kids to know that work is hard, but it can be super, super rewarding.
I think kids need to learn the history of our great nation. Even though there are a lot of things that divide Americans, working hard has always been something that has brought us a great deal of joy. Think about those pioneers who came across the western expansion. That was hard work, but they did it and it paid off.
More recently, think about the people going out to help in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico after the hurricanes. America wants to help. I think if we teach kid to help others and work hard, it doesn’t matter if they get a job that pays a ton of money, but they will know what an honest day’s work is – that is something that has been passed down generation to generation.
I remember telling my dad that I really wanted a pair of Levi’s that cost $35. He was very frugal and told me that he would spend $10 on jeans, but if I wanted jeans that cost more, I would have to work for it. And I worked for my neighbors, like cleaning bathrooms and things that, just so I could have those jeans. And you know what, I took care of those jeans because I understood the value.
So, if a kid works hard at something, teachers need to cheer for them. It shows you value their hard work.
Q. Who inspires you?
A. My sisters, my dad and my grandparents really inspire me. They are all very hard workers. My biggest inspiration is my grandmother. She would talk about her grandmother who came across the United States in a covered wagon and what they had to go through.
She would say, “If you think you’ve had a tough day or think you can’t do it, just remember that you didn’t have to walk two thousand miles across the country. You come from good pioneer stock, so you can do anything you need to do.”
My grandma also came to every event that was important to me, my siblings, and my cousins.
My grandpa would say, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.” I say that to my kids in my classroom now.
Q. Do prior students come back to talk to you? What do they say?
A. I just had one of my former students who was in my 1st and 2nd grade class speak in church last week. He graduated from Lake Havasu High School. But after his speech, he came up to me and said, “You taught me the importance of service, being kind, and loving the United States.”
I thought, that is the greatest gift, as a teacher, I could give a kid.
I also had the opportunity to write letters of recommendations for four or five students who were in my class and that was pretty awesome.
There are a couple of parents who have moved out of town. Those parents asked if I wouldn’t mind Skyping to help their student understand a concept they are struggling with. It feels nice to be able to help them and that they think of me when they need help.
So, it’s either “I’m in trouble and I need help. What should I do?” or “I’m going to college. Can you write me a letter of recommendation?” That’s pretty awesome, that they are thinking of their teacher from when they were a little kid. It feels nice to have made that connection that lasts a lifetime.
Q. What would your past students say about you?
A. I think they would say she was tough, but fair. She made learning fun and expected us to work hard. She truly believes in decisions, determination, destiny and we are responsible for our choices. She loves America, baseball, her family, and us! I hope they would say she loved us no matter what.
Q. What is your favorite part of teaching 3rd grade?
A. I like that we are departmentalized so that I can focus on English Language Arts and social studies.
Q. What is your favorite lesson to teach?
A. My true love is history and I love to teach about the founding fathers. I also love being the P.A.C.E. advisor.
We live in a very young country and it’s not perfect, and we have a lot to work on, but compared to some places, it’s a hundred times better. Young girls are going to school to follow their dreams and are told they can be whomever they want to be. They are not being told that, just because they are girls, they can’t. There are old, old, countries that have just voted to let their women drive. But the United States should receive more credit for its progressiveness when you think about how young it is.
I think the takeaway is, yes, stand up for what is right, but be grateful that you have the right to stand up for what you believe in. Even more so, you don’t always have to be the loudest. It’s okay to stop, to listen, and to listen to other people’s ideas. You might learn something. Just because you’re loud, doesn’t mean you’re right.
I also think kids need to learn compromise, that it’s not just about them. There are whole groups of other people you may not know and you’re going to have different perspectives based upon where you grew up.
I just think that we need to remember, no matter what, we are Americans first, and what a blessing it is that we were born in this country.
Q. What is your favorite thing about Telesis?
A. My favorite thing about Telesis is that we are a family. The whole concept of the Telesis triangle, and having the student at the apex of that triangle, is super important. It is a community of parents, teachers, and students working together.