Sandlapper Elementary School
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
My role as an educator is multifaceted, but one aspect I am determined to maintain daily is being supportive to every person in the building. My day may begin and end the same, but what I do throughout the day changes and I LOVE it! Typically, everyday begins the same with welcoming our STAR students to school during car rider duty, prepping my 4th and 5th grade news crew for the live morning news show, and checking in with my teacher assistant who teaches the computer lab class. After that, it really depends on the day of the week. For example, on Tuesdays, I attend weekly leadership team and instructional coaches meetings, co-teach in a class or two, check in with the cafeteria staff about the lunch count spreadsheet, facilitate technology PD or a data analysis protocol to a grade level team, coach a teacher on how to use a tech tool, update the school’s website, and post what I observed the students doing that day on social media for Tweeting Tuesdays. I end everyday smiling as I help students into their cars during afternoon duty and stay available for after school coaching or PD.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
My philosophy of education is that learner achievement and personal success are attainable when the learner has (1) diverse ways to learn and (2) various platforms to demonstrate what he/she can do to teach someone else.
3.) Why did you become an educator?
I became an educator because my goal was (and still is) to make a positive impact on my students in hopes that they will pay it forward one day by teaching someone else the value of having an education.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
I will strive to be a bridge between my school and the surrounding communities by implementing the ideas I gain as a SCASCD Emerging Leader. I will also continue to be an advocate for students by informing stakeholders in the community about the five principles of the "Whole Child" belief and why it is essential to be passionate and committed to our public schools. Lastly, I plan to use this opportunity to connect, network, and learn from other leaders in hopes to increase my knowledge and leadership impact.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
My district offers a course to help you develop your leadership growth in a cohort called Leading Up. During the course, I was taken on a journey of self-discovery to determine my strengths and weaknesses and given the opportunity to identify how I can grow and lead from where I am. One of the sessions incorporated a book study of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. We also delved into The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. These two books are constant resources for me as I reflect at the end of each school year and prepare for the next. I also reference what I learn from the yearly SC Midlands Summit and courses from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to keep up with what is trending in the instructional technology field. My Professional Learning Network (PLN) continues to grow as I have expanded it to include a variety of educational leaders on blogs, podcasts, Twitter, and Instagram.
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
Honestly, teaching was not my dream career while growing up. I thought I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. But during my senior year in high school, I met Mrs. Brewer, the teacher who made me reconsider my future plans. She didn’t teach us in the traditional sense; instead, she allowed us to experience and reflect on life while creating opportunities for us to learn what we were interested in. At the time, this differentiation was frowned upon by many, but for me as a teenager, Mrs. Brewer had given me the power to educate myself and I wanted to do the same for others. So, I became a teacher with the purpose of providing my students with different ways to learn and showcase what they have learned. I have tried to mimic that magic for the last 15 years. I use the verb “tried” because I haven’t always succeeded with every student, but when I do, I consider those to be my pivotal moments in education.
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
Besides increasing teacher pay and lowering class sizes, I would place a stronger emphasis on digital citizenship in schools and at home. As a Technology and Learning Coach (TLC), I understand the importance of raising awareness of digital citizenship with administrators, teachers, parents, and students. After all, our students are using technology all the time, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic with most districts encouraging teachers to use the eLearning pathway to continue teaching their curriculum. However, many students are using their access to devices unsafely, inappropriately, or even illegally. Digital citizenship is a topic that we all need to take as seriously as we do classroom management. Like classroom procedures and household chores are practiced daily, digital citizenship should be too.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
One day in Walmart, I saw a former student and her family. When she saw me, she hugged me and said, “I miss you, Ms. Dinkins! Thank you for everything. High school is not that bad because of you.” She then took her phone out and we became an IG post on her feed immediately. On the way home, I reflected on that encounter. Whether my student misses my ELA lessons, pre-teen advice, or just me as a person, my heart is full knowing that I have made a positive impact on this student’s life and I hope she will pay it forward one day.