Sara Awtry

Monaview Elementary School

 

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

I love my current role in education as an Instructional Coach, and every day looks different. My time is spent mixed with classroom visits and observations, coaching and data analysis sessions with teachers, and school leadership and district team meetings, just to name a few.  I am available to meet with teachers during planning times, when we often gather resources for the next unit or create an assessment together. I spend time leading grade-level and school-wide professional development sessions on various topics.  I can also be found greeting students and teachers and also helping the car line run smoothly.

 

My favorite role is working with a teacher to analyze student data, both in the formative and summative sense.  When I sit with teachers to look at their student work, diagnose those results and make a plan moving forward, I know I am making a difference for that student.  This is when I feel I am improving teaching and learning of all students, because we find out what specifically each one needs. We make a plan to reteach when necessary, to elaborate on a particular topic, or visit a standard in another way.  Through analysis and planning, I feel that I help teachers move all of their students forward.

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

 

All students deserve growth and a chance at equity in education, no matter the level of poverty, limited life experiences or language barriers.  

 

3.) Why did you become an educator?

 

I was four years old when my sister was born.  I taught her everything I knew, played school constantly, and enjoyed every aspect of schooling from a very early age.  I replicated the classroom at home, and I believe I was born with the personality of a teacher. That personality, combined with teachers that I loved and respected, guided me towards this profession.  

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

 

I think being vocal at school and in district meetings, as well as posting on Twitter, about the positive aspects in my job and generally in education help to promote our profession.  Very often, the negative aspects and problems are shared. It is my duty to share the great things happening every day with curriculum and instruction, teacher engagement, and individual student progress.  My current principal has helped me see how necessary it is to share our story, so that stakeholders and community members have a glimpse into a day at my school, and I am proud to live out that vision. I will continue to celebrate students and teachers at my school, as well as district and state victories and positive moments that come about.         

 

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

 

I have a three-part answer here:

 

Engagement:  Going to visit The Ron Clark Academy and Get Your Teach On experience have motivated and encouraged me, while reminding me to keep high expectations and engagement for all students. 

 

Literacy: Jennifer Serravallo’s texts (Writing Strategies, Reading Strategies and Understanding Texts & Readers) have helped me strengthen my understanding and then guide teachers and students in literacy development. 

 

Math: My math professional books include Sherry Parrish’s Number Talks and the Math in Practice series by Heinemann, which have deepened my number sense strategies for all grade levels.  Number Talks have allowed students at my school, and in my district, to engage in purposeful conversations about numbers and gain a stronger understanding of foundational mathematical pieces; it’s my go-to!

 

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

 

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and that profession is confirmed regularly.  When the student “gets it,” my choice is confirmed. When a child says, “You helped me understand math today,” my choice is confirmed.  When a teacher runs into my room to share academic growth, my choice is confirmed. When another teacher collects formative data and brings it to me with a question on what to do next, my choice is confirmed.  When our school is highlighted for celebrating diversity, my choice is confirmed.

 

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

 

I would love to move towards standards-based grading and assessments.  Some districts have embraced this, but currently we are grading on an A-F scale, and it does not always align with whether or not a student has mastered the specific standard.  I want to be more creative on how we show student progress and movement along the expectations of grade-levels. As a society, we are much more creative in how we teach and reach students, but they are then measured through tests and exams, and I believe this is misaligned.  I would love to make changed in grading and assessment.

 

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

 

In my career, it has been my goal to make sure students from other countries feel safe and accepted in our classroom and school.  I am able to speak Spanish with these newcomers and tell jokes with them.  I try to translate simple phrases and words when possible. Just to see them smile and give me a hug helps me know they feel comfortable in our school. I take great pride in welcoming and forming relationships with newcomers at our current school.  I also create test modifications and accommodations to help them see success without becoming overwhelmed.   I try my best to encourage teachers with creative strategies to include all students in the learning process as well. When I help new students with a mathematical concept and encourage their confidence, that is when I know my purpose is fulfilled.  

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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