L.W Conder Arts Integrated Magnet Elementary School
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
If you were to visit my classroom for a day, you will immediately see the relationships that have been built. You will see a routine that has been in place and mastered to the point where the boys could run things on their own. From our morning meetings to the in depth conversation during Socratic seminar, you will see students who are owning their learning and classroom responsibilities. Part of this is done through the use of data that they have come to collect, know, and understand individually. This data has not only helped me drive my instruction, but it has helped my students know what questions to ask. It has help with better understanding for themselves on how to come to me and voice their views on a topic that they may struggle with. Because instruction is differentiated through the use of blended learning, you may see students being able to work at their own pace in my classroom. Flexible grouping during this time has been a great asset that has helped me maintain a growth mindset. It allows for my students to thrive at their level and not feel trapped at any one level without success. Utilizing this approach has allowed me to formatively assess students during the day and work with students individually to enhance their understanding as well as challenge those who are already experiencing success.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
Closely identified as the progressivism philosophy of education, it is my philosophy that teaching is the platform in which students are able to gain knowledge and use that knowledge to determine their direction in life and evoke change and innovation in the things that interest them most.
3.) Why did you become an educator?
It has always been a dream of mine to become an educator. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia with two younger brothers and an older sister. My parents instilled in us the drive to be great and no matter what, we would accomplish our goals! Neither of my parents went to college but the beautiful thing about this was that they knew the importance of education and they did whatever needed to be done to make sure that my siblings and I got the education that would ensure our future success. My mom and dad were so supportive of us that they made me feel like the smartest girl in the world. My younger brothers would begin to feel this in our multiple teaching sessions that would soon come. I would always sit my younger brothers in our family den and stand proudly in front of them trying to teach them what I thought I knew oh so well. I would use my mom's white walls to write math problems on them and make my brothers come up to the wall to solve them. After getting in trouble for writing on the walls, my mom bought me workbooks to use. This is when the real rigor began for my brothers. To this day I think that maybe my early sessions contributed to my brothers’ success with them now being college graduates (University of West Georgia- B.S in Criminology and Wake Forest University- B.A in Communications/ Cultural Anthropology) and young professionals.
Whenever asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always said with great confidence that I would be a teacher, even when many people would mention the salary and the headaches that they thought I would endure, my answer never changed. I saw it as more than a career. It was something that I knew I could get up and do every day and never get angry about going to my job. I loved the idea of being able to give the knowledge I had to others and learn from others in significant ways.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
South Carolina ASCD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a primary mission of improving the teaching and learning of all students. South Carolina ASCD accomplishes its mission by influencing educational research, policy, and practice in curriculum and instruction.
As a member of the emerging young leaders program, it is my goal to contribute the South Carolina ASCD mission by contributing my time, service, and ideas in order to help improve teaching and learning. It is my hope that as a member I can be a vessel when helping teachers understand the importance of knowing educational policy so that they can use their voices in the field that they love so much. I want to contribute to helping teachers gather a better understanding of the best educational practices to use in their classrooms. I also want to help teachers see their value by encouraging educators to not only utilize educational research already present but to contribute to educational research because our field is a field that is ever changing.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
I have been afforded the opportunity to participate in many professional developments over the course of my teaching career. One in particular that I have enjoyed the most and that has inspired me is AVID. Attending the AVID conference is always exciting because I am able to practice useful content while I am learning. Avid has helped me to utilize great teaching strategies that will help my students grow and become their best selves in school and in the world. I also enjoyed attending and taking part in Deeper Learning and Teach to Lead. These professional developments helped me to view things on a larger scale when it comes to me impacting students and teachers as an educational leader. I have used the skills and strategies gained from these opportunities on a weekly basis with my students and as the professional learning community chair and team leader in my school. Lastly, I have been greatly impacted by my most recent doctorate course, The Social Cultural Foundations of Education because I was able to study the impact of teaching students in poverty. The insight gained has been extremely helpful not only in my teaching but as an educational leader as well.
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
Conducting student led conferences had been a goal of mine for my students. After much research about student led conferences, I created my own outline for them but, they could not just be implemented. I had to have conversations with my students about determining who they are as learners and understanding how to relay that message at such a young age to their parents. My students and I had discussions about learning styles, their academic and behavioral data, and their college and career interest. All of these would became components of their student data binder in which they used for their student led conferences. This idea came to pass in such a marvelous way. I had students who barely understood why they had to come to school explaining to their parents their learning style, academic data, and future goals. Because I have a high percentage of Hispanic parents, many of my students even did their conference in their parent’s native language with some help from the district interpreter. As I sat in these conferences and listened to my 5th grade boys have such empowering conversations with their parents, I knew that I was doing the right thing. What many think is impossible, especially for 10 year old students, I felt that I made it possible because I challenged them to understand education and not just take part education! I felt accomplished!
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about education, it would be the perception that others have created about the profession. I would like people to see educators as committed professionals who are committed to nurturing the whole child through learning.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
One of my greatest accomplishments as an educator has been the growth that I witnessed one of my ESOL (English as a Second Language) student’s make. This student came to me very shy and would only write his name when I pulled him in small group. He waited for me to give him every step after that, even if it was something I knew he could independently do. Throughout the year, I worked with him and made sure he understood my expectations for him and what I knew he was capable of. In my school, we take the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test in the fall and in the spring. This student worked very hard all year long and increased by 24 points after taking the Spring MAP reading test. I had the opportunity to loop with his class this same year from the 3rd grade to the 4th grade. I was excited to be able to help this young man continue to progress in his academics. To also see his Spanish speaking parents so excited for me to be their child’s teacher again made me feel like I was truly making a difference in his life. He is now on grade level in middle school and continuing to make the A/B honor roll each year! Truly a testament that all students no matter their cultural or academic background, can succeed!