It was a privilege to interview Sharon B., the winner of the Words to Grow By Gift Set in our recent holiday contest. Sharon’s name was chosen at random. Congratulations, Sharon. Here are some excerpts from our interview.
TP: Sharon, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
SB: I’ve been teaching for 24 years. Now I’m teaching fifth grade, ELA and Social Studies. I’ve taught students from second through eighth grade over the years.
TP: What makes you come back to Teacher Peach?
SB: You get teachers. Teaching is my passion; it is not a career. It is my passion to help my students. When I help students with reading and literacy, I’m doing work that’s right for me—and for them. Many times, students are reading two grades below level. My passion helps me put myself in their shoes. I keep in perspective exactly where each child is and I tell my students I know they can succeed. I encourage every different student to brush off the struggles and frustrations and keep moving forward. Teacher Peach shares my passion for teaching, teachers, and kids. I like that.
TP: What are the three biggest rewards for you as a teacher?
SB: When I started teaching, thought I’d change the world. I quickly learned that would take longer than I’d thought. Now, I see I’ve made differences—one student at a time. It’s the greatest feeling to discover what former students have achieved. It reminds both of us of the difference we made together. Middle school may have been a long time ago, but they remember and so do I. It can take years to know you were a part of their success, but it is worth the wait. I’ve even had the chance to teach the children of former students. Finally, when I worked as a special needs teaching assistant, I found different rewards than I ever imagined. To see those children, so eager to learn and discover what they can do, was big. They didn’t judge, they were open to doing their best, and when I would spot their determination, when I could spark that smile on a child’s face, it was wonderful. All kids can do so much if we encourage them. When they can trust you as a teacher, it is very rewarding.
TP: What are your three biggest challenges?
SB: Every teacher knows that there are just some days you don’t feel you’re getting through to your kids. I stop myself and wonder what those children deal with before and after they are in my classroom. I remind myself that we have no idea what they struggle with at home. As an English teacher, I see students who don’t like to write. I need to figure out other ways to reach them. Getting enough support is a challenge, too. Teaching assistants work so much harder than many teachers see. I was a TA and that experience opened my eyes. As teachers, we need to appreciate all the support teams around us.
TP: You have such an incredible attitude and approach to teaching. What advice would you have for other teachers?
SB: First, put yourself out there and be confident in yourself. Failures do help to build confidence; don’t be afraid of that. Second, smile and keep a positive attitude. I always tell my kids, “Your day always turns out the way the corners of your mouth turn.” That’s good advice for anyone to follow. Finally, have teaching passion. If you are passionate, then teachers teach and learn. We learn from our students—every day. I take what I learn from my kids and try my very best to share learning right back.
TP: What would you tell new teachers and college students considering teaching?
SB: Again, you need a passion to teach. “It’s all in or go home!” Realize you’re never done learning; graduating is the beginning of your next learning opportunity. Keep learning. Seek out PD; I do. I think new teachers think success is about big things, but it isn’t. Teaching with passion shows you that the little things are really big things when they help a student grow and learn! Use numbers wisely, too. Test scores measure progress, but remember the number one, too—one child at a time. Every single child is an individual. Help each do well in class and they’ll do well on standardized tests. Testing is a great measuring tool because you can see progress from starting scores to new ones. I’ve helped kids make a two-year leap in one school year, to jump 47 points in one year! That gain means we’re doing the right things. Data doesn’t lie. Don’t worry what level a student is when you begin; that’s a starting point. I tell my students that if they’ll work with me, I’ll do everything I can to work with them. Let your students know you’ll help and that you know they’ll do their best.
TP: Any other advice for other teachers?
SB: Remember to get down to the kids’ level—look at the world through their eyes if you can. Peer pressure is huge these days. You’ve got to have empathy. Jump in, put yourself out there, and you’ll learn and become an even better teacher.
TP: As you know, Teacher Peach strives to support and appreciate teachers. What makes you feel appreciated?
SB: My district is so amazing, and I’ve always felt appreciated here. Other teachers have told me they’re not so fortunate. From what I hear about other places, politics can sometimes overshadow being there for the kids. In my district, I’m supported for doing my best with and for my kids. I love it when families acknowledge the work I do. Cards and letters from my own principal mean a lot, too.
TP: Can you suggest products you’d like Teacher Peach to create to help support teachers?
SB: You’ve got lots of products of all sizes, which is good. I love the sticky notes, cards, stickers, pencils, clips, Sharpies®, and supplies we use all the time. I also love little pins and clips for lanyards. Personally, I love anything with a ladybug on it. I use LADYBUGS as acronym for what I do.
Sharon’s Ladybug: Learning Always Demonstrates that You’re Building an Understanding of Goals and Skills!
Sharon has certainly shared her understanding of the goals, skills—and passion—every teacher needs to thrive. Sharon’s Teacher Peach Words to Grow By Gift Set is en route to her. When she opens her package, she’s promised to reconnect with Teacher Peach, so stay tuned for Sharon’s next installment. We so hope Sharon’s words of wisdom and ideas inspire you the next time you go into your classroom. What would you add to Sharon’s messages? Do you have a teaching ACRONYM to share?