My journey as an educator began 19 years ago at Holley-Navarre Intermediate School, a Title 1 school on the Florida panhandle. I was one of 17 5th grade teachers my initial year. In addition to experience, I gained a deep appreciation for my 10-year-old students, excitedly admitting to anyone that would listen the degree to which I had been educated my neophyte year by those glorious children. Man, was I smitten!
I would spend the next nine years at Holley Navarre Intermediate School teaching fifth grade and honing my craft, with most of that time devoted to providing science instruction. Because our school clustered gifted and high-achieving students (and I was asked to be a cluster teacher), I pursued and earned my master’s degree in gifted education from the University of South Alabama. The years teaching at Holley Navarre Intermediate School opened many doors. I served on the district’s science and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) cadres, was the school web manager, was selected as the Rookie of Year and Teacher of the Year, and was chosen to fly on the Zero-G educator flight at Kennedy Space Center.
When my husband’s job brought us to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, I was intrigued to find a K-6 public school for gifted and high-achieving students. After teaching fifth grade my first year living in Tennessee, I was hired to teach sixth grade math and science at that school for high achievers, The Discovery School. It was like falling in love with teaching all over again. During the next eight years I started a competitive robotics team (which is still going strong); implemented Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model; blogged for Scholastic; was awarded 12 different grants for math and science; took students to Izmir, Turkey, for Space Camp Turkey; was recognized as the 2013 Tennessee Grand Division Teacher of the Year for grades six through eight and one of nine finalists for the 2013 Tennessee Teacher of the Year; earned my doctorate in Leadership and Professional Practice; and taught math and science like my hair was on fire.
Providing an environment where my students can take risks and experience authentic learning is the cornerstone of my educational philosophy. The connection between student and teacher is everything. Throughout the years, I have constantly found myself repairing the self-efficacy of students in mathematics, especially my female students. Earning a student’s trust is the vehicle for making the necessary adjustments to a student’s belief in his or her ability to analyze, manipulate, and create mathematically. After struggling students admit that math isn’t so bad, I would quietly lean in and say, “Some times, math chooses you,” and smile, knowing for those students, math has another shot.
I currently serve as one of two Gifted Coordinators for Murfreesboro City Schools. Assigned to six schools, I am responsible for consulting with students, supporting teachers that have gifted clusters in their classrooms, identifying academic talent, maintaining gifted IEPs, and providing professional development. I am excited to return to the Top Teaching blog to share ideas for integrated lessons, classroom organization, and varied approaches to creativity and differentiation. It is an honor to “share the screen” with so many talented educators during the 2016-2017 school year. Thank you in advance for coming along for the ride, it is going to be a great adventure!
Top Teaching bloggers are paid contributors for the Scholastic Teachers website.