Woodmont High School
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
As the Freshman Academy Coordinator, my role changes minute by minute every day. My main focus throughout the day is to ensure that our ninth graders are successful both in and out of the classroom. As such, my first priority is to meet with ninth grade students to help in their transition to high school by addressing their needs and creating programs for academic success. Besides serving as the Freshman Academy Coordinator, I also have the role of an instructional coach. As an instructional coach, I am able to work alongside teachers in planning curriculum and reflecting on pedagogical practices. As part of an instructional team, I collaborate weekly with the other instructional coaches to discuss ways to improve the educational experiences for our students and strategies to aid in the instructional practices for our teachers. Additionally, the instructional coaching role affords me the opportunity to promote the use of data analysis to inform teaching practice. By collaboratively sharing and reflecting on data with teachers, we are able to create a meaningful and purposeful curriculum to meet the needs of all learners. My role as the Freshman Academy Coordinator is not typical at all, but provides me with so many rewarding experiences.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
Educators who truly believe in students make a difference and enhance the educational experiences for all students.
3.) Why did you become an educator?
As a child of an educator, my induction into the field of teaching happened at a very early age. Throughout my childhood and adolescence years, my mother frequently took me to her school where I would observe her classes and be memorized by her teaching. When I think of why I became an educator, I am reminded of the day I visited my mother at her work. My mother taught English for 40 years and her classroom was situated near the front office. She taught with such enthusiasm that one could hear her teaching when entering the building. On this particular day, I entered the school to hear and witness my mother demonstrating how to do “The Charleston” dance to a diverse group of high school juniors. The English class was reading The Great Gatsby. As I walked closer to her room, I noticed that the class was emulating the dance that my mother was creatively modeling. The students were fully engaged and truly understood the music and dance of the time period. This was an example of a master teacher in action and I knew that day I wanted to become an educator.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
As an Emerging Leader, I desire to learn and network with other educators in South Carolina. Being new to the state of South Carolina, I am particularly interested in learning and collaborating with other secondary level educators to understand their leadership roles and the programs their schools have created to garner student success. My research interest and current position focuses on the eighth to ninth grade transition. I am hoping that I can connect with other school leaders who share similar research interests and collectively work together to meet the needs of students.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
I am currently finishing my Phd in Teacher Education and Teacher Development at Montclair State University. During my doctoral coursework, I had the amazing opportunity to learn directly from Dr. Ana Maria Villegas and Dr. Tamara Lucas, two pioneers in the field of culturally responsive teaching. Dr. Villegas and Dr. Lucas taught doctoral courses and authored the book Educating Culturally Responsive Teachers: A Coherent Approach. Their framework for culturally responsive teaching has been influential in my career as an educator.
Additionally, Dr. Lisa Delpit’s (2006) book entitled Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom opened my eyes and heart in understanding what it means to be a culturally responsive educator. Delpit analyzes the importance of educators understanding how the cultural backgrounds of students directly impact academic successes and failures. As such, when teachers understand their students’ cultural backgrounds and interests outside of school, (i.e. music, sports, hobbies) educators can utilize this knowledge in developing lessons relatable to students. Delpit’s book inspired me to know my students more by cultivating those relational connections.
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
The opportunity to mentor students was the pivotal moment I realized a career in education was the correct choice. These mentoring experiences offered me new insights and knowledge about my students and afforded me opportunities to promote change. From mentoring an 8th grade girls group to creating a 9th grade boys group to help with the transition into high school, I have had the amazing opportunity to help students from diverse backgrounds. Mentoring students has ultimately shaped and influenced my approach to teaching, collaborating and learning.
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
If I could make one major change in education it would be to create more culturally and linguistically responsive components for both teacher preparation programs and school districts. One factor of a student’s academic success is attributed to the learning environment created by the teacher. When teachers think and create curriculums that’s reflective of a student's strengths, prior skills, culture and lived experiences, then educators are acting in a culturally and linguistically responsive manner.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
My most rewarding experience as an educator has been developing meaningful relationships and advocating for students. Throughout my career as a teacher and now in a leadership position, the opportunity to advocate for students has been an essential role for me as an educator. Every student deserves to have someone who believes in their abilities, identifies their individual needs and provides the necessary resources for their success in education and in life.