Lauren Nifong

Brook Glenn Elementary

 

1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?

For the past nine years, I have taught upper elementary. Most recently, my love for mathematics led me to teaching fifth grade math and science. A typical day in the life of a math teacher involved incorporating hands-on learning to build strong conceptual foundations and lots of love, patience, and understanding. 

 

This year, I am transitioning into a new role as an instructional coach. Although, there is much uncertainty about the year ahead, I am most looking forward to working with teachers on a daily basis – encouraging them, empowering them, and supporting them. Teaching is by far the most rewarding career I have ever been a part of, but we all know how challenging it can be at times. I hope to be a helpful resource to the educators within my school.  I wish to aid them in building upon their strengths to reach every child, every time. Every piece of the school village is imperative to the success of our students.

2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?

 

Every child deserves a high quality education provided by educators who truly believe they can succeed.

3.) Why did you become an educator?

 

Some of the most influential people in my life were educators. At any given time, during any major event, I can vividly remember a teacher who was there to love and encourage me along the way. I remember being the student who took all the old textbooks home just so I could play “school” with my stuffed animals. I knew from a very young age that I would become a teacher. There were no backup plans, no alternate routes – a career in education was my destiny. I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, and what better way to make a positive impact on society than helping to educate future generations

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?

 

By networking with other amazing educators from throughout the state, I know that we can band together to make a positive impact on the educational system in South Carolina. I am a firm believer that we are better together. If we combine our knowledge and resources, we can truly become a driving force in ensuring all students receive a high quality education and support from our schools. Using that momentum to help bridge communities and school systems together will be crucial. I look forward to working with other passionate educators in order to better serve our students, schools, and their communities.  

 

5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?

 

Several years ago, I attended a professional development on Guided Math. I participated in a book study using Laney Sammon’s book, Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction. Her focus on differentiation and the use of formative assessments to target student needs was a huge “a-ha” moment for me as an educator. After using the Guided Reading approach for years, it made perfect sense to use a similar model in math as well. I was able to individualize learning for all of my students and saw learning maximized in my classroom.

After becoming acquainted with this model, I was asked to help implement it at a new school where I had recently transferred. Over the next year, I provided monthly professional development on how to revamp our math program to maximize student achievement. We saw great gains, but most importantly, we witnessed students exploring math in numeracy rich environments. Students were confident in their math abilities because they were now in a small group setting where they felt comfortable and safe participating. The teacher was reaching each child based on their individual needs. Laney’s way of using data to inform instruction and small group teaching revolutionized our math program. 

6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   

 

Watching children learn and grow will always be rewarding, but if I had to reflect on a single moment that truly made me realize I was following my calling, it would actually be from a conversation I had with a parent. It was the beginning of a new school year and we were hosting an open house. Parents were able to come in and meet their child’s new teacher. As a mom myself, I know how nervous parents can be during this initial meeting. They hope and pray that this person is the right fit for their child.

One parent came into my room and with a sigh of relief said, “You’re one of the good ones.” It caught me off guard, but she explained that she had already heard throughout the neighborhood that if her son was placed in my class, he would be well taken care of throughout his journey in fifth grade.

When you genuinely love what you do, when you truly care about the students that come into your room, parents can see that – and word travels fast. I knew in that moment that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. I was making a difference in the lives of not only these students, but their families as well.

 

7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?

 

Ensuring equity for all students regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status would be the one thing I would want to work on impacting and changing for the better in education. We have made many strides in the right direction over the years in regards to equity, but I feel we still have miles to go before all students are truly represented and given the same opportunities. And although “ensuring equity for all” may seem like a daunting task, it only takes one person to start the conversation and empower others to follow suit.

 

8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?

 

There is nothing sweeter than looking into the eyes of a child when they finally understand a concept that they have struggled with for so long. So many children need a champion – someone that truly believes that they can accomplish anything with a little hard work, grit, and determination. There is no greater joy than empowering a child to reach their full potential. When the days are long and the workload continues to rise, all it takes is a moment with a student who is learning to remind me of my “why.”  To know that you are truly in a career path that is making an immeasureable difference in the lives of young people is humbling and powerful. I am so grateful for the teachers who poured their heart into my educational journey and inspired me to become an educator myself.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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