Oak Pointe Elementary School
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
My typical day as an educator is usually never the same. As an administrator, I am fortunate to be able to work with all of the students and staff throughout the school. Greeting students, parents, and staff members in the car line is always an amazing way to start my day. Following the car line, I tour the building to check on several students and make sure they are off to a great start to their day. Observations of classrooms is something I try to do as often as possible when I do not have meetings scheduled. I am the Special Education Placement Chair and I attend all of our SPED meetings throughout the school year. This is one of the best parts of my job because I get to celebrate the growth of our students with all of the students’ team members and families. Throughout the day, I constantly meet with my administrative team to review events of the day, discuss upcoming tasks, or problem solve situations together to make sure we are on the same page and reflect on all situation throughout the school together. Planning for professional development is another big part of my day. As a former instructional coach, I enjoy being able to design PD based on the specific needs of the students and staff. Reviewing data is usually another big part of my typical day. Working with data teams and reviewing school-wide data is a constant process throughout the school year. This data helps drive our decisions to best support our students.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
“Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Rita Pierson
3.) Why did you become an educator?
In high school, I did not do well taking standardized tests. I made the same score on the SAT twice and of course it was not a great score. My teacher cadet instructor, Mrs. Byars, saw that I was incredibly sad one day and asked what was wrong. I explained my story and my fear of not getting into a good college because of my SAT score, even though my grades were good. We worked together, with my guidance counselor, on my college applications and I was able to get into several colleges. It was that moment that someone took the time to believe in me, be my cheerleader, and help me be successful that I knew I wanted to be an educator. She saw me as more than a score on a test. I wanted to be that person for other students.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
As a life-long learner, I hope to gain more knowledge about the education profession that I can share with my colleagues. This opportunity will allow me to reflect on my current practices as well as those of my colleagues. Reflection always offers opportunities for growth. Collaborating with colleagues around the state will help me build relationships focused on educating the students of our state. Through collaboration, I will be able learn best practices, innovative ways to engage students, and share the great things going on at OPES with others. I am always seeking opportunities to share the great things happening at my school as well as gain knowledge for the great things others are doing. Through this reciprocal partnership, we will be able to positively impact education all throughout the state of South Carolina and be intentional about our future endeavors with our students. Together, we will be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and be creative regarding the work we do with students.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
Currently, I am a doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction program and PDS Fellowship recipient at the University of South Carolina. This opportunity allows me to receive constant professional development as I intentionally design research focused on the needs and interests of my school and district. I am able to work with USC professors to reflect on current, research-based, best practices within my school environment. Through this partnership, I am also able to help support the future of our profession by working closely with our student interns and collaborate with methods classes that are offered at our school. This reciprocal partnership fosters constant growth and reflection for me, my staff, our USC partners, and our students.
One person that inspires me as an educator is Ron Clark. As I read some of his books as well as the books his staff has written, I am constantly inspired to do more for the students I get the opportunity to work with every day. I recently had the opportunity to see him speak with Wade King, a teacher at Ron Clark Academy. One can’t hear them speak and not be motivated to be the Wild Card for their students. It was incredibly motivational and I encourage all educators to read The Wild Card by Wade and Hope King.
Another book that has stuck with me over my career is Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck. Educators must be intentional about having a growth mindset and foster this within students. Having a growth mindset allows us to embrace failure as learning opportunities and grow from these experiences. As we embrace new experiences or tackle tough situations, having a growth mindset allows us to persevere in a positive way.
I was also fortunate enough to be trained in Project Based Learning by the Buck Institute. This was truly an life changing experience for me in my educational career. It changed everything
about my approach to educating students. I became more of a facilitator of learning by designing engaging, authentic work for my students. As I implemented PBL, I saw a complete transformation in my students. Their engagement, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication soared. It was awesome! I was excited about the work I was designing for students and in awe of the work they were producing. Doing this kind of work with students made teaching fun and exciting. I absolutely loved it.
Going through the National Boards process was another extremely beneficial professional development opportunity. The rigorous process of initial certification and the renewal process allowed me opportunities to reflect on my current practices, challenged me to improve my practices, and encouraged me constantly reflect on the individual learning needs of my students.
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
One of the schools that I taught at had a very large military population. Many parents were deployed overseas, which greatly impacted our students. To help make this tough time a little better, I created a Face the Face Connections group for students to Facetime their parents before school started. This opportunity allowed students to start their day off in a positive way, gave parents a chance to be part of the happenings at school, and also gave teachers an opportunity to chat with parents if they needed to so that everyone was in constant communication. It helped strengthen the relationships between home and school, even though the parents were thousands of miles away. Seeing these families participate week after week and seeing some of them return home was an amazing experience that solidified that I was in the right profession. Education is a calling and it is definitely what I was called to do. Serving my students, my staff, and my parents each and every day is something I look forward to. “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” Muhammed Ali
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
It is hard to put into words what needs to change in education. Many people have very strong opinions about what should be done and what should not be done. One of the biggest things I feel is quickly being lost in education today is “joy”. Everyone involved in education is losing their joy in teaching because of various things happening throughout the world of education. When we lose our joy we lose sight of why we are in this profession in the first place, our students. The focus of our energy shifts to other things, which quickly become our priority, and students are left behind. Our passion, our excitement, and our focus should always be on the students we get the opportunity to serve each and every day. How can we as educators, politicians, administrators, community members, etc work together to put the focus on our students and find joy in the work we do with them? Many times what is best for students isn’t always easy for adults.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
Throughout my career, I have had many amazing experiences as an educator. Past students graduating, going to college, getting married, and much more. However, the most rewarding experience was seeing my own child love school because of the hard work and dedication of the staff at Oak Pointe Elementary. The staff at OPES is second to none. Her teachers and other staff members pour love into her every day to help her be her best. They do not simply do this just for her but for every student that walks through the doors. Putting the needs of students first is their utmost priority. My child and all of the others at OPES know they are loved, they have cheerleaders cheering for them, and everyone wants them to be successful. Being a part of this learning community has been the most rewarding experience I have had as an educator. OPES is truly the best school ever!