Teachers of New Jersey: Wendy List, Ethel McKnight School, East Windsor, 2nd Grade
I have always liked children and helping children. My 6th Grade teacher, Ms. Wilson was so inspirational to me. She was a phenomenal teacher. She made each student feel like they were a special person: not just a kid, but a special person. She found out what each student was interested in, and she would try to bring out our uniqueness to other students in the classroom.
I try to get to know my students, to learn about them, which helps guide my teaching style. Parent-teacher conferences are so key, of course, because that is how you get a picture of what a child is like at home, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I try to work with the parents as a team, to get to know the parents.
We are really geared towards small groups and one-on-one instructions. Even though it’s a lot more work, you can get to know your students so much better and you can see what they are capable of, and where they need to work harder.
This past year I had a student who came to me very low, and I noticed it the very first day of school. The mother pulled me aside at back to school night, and she told me her concerns. So, together we were really able to help her daughter work hard and she was really able to move up in her reading level and in her abilities. With that contact with her mom and getting to know her daughter’s strengths, I was really able to see what the mom saw at home and what I was seeing in the classroom. It helped us build a really good foundation for her. The parents are an important part of a team of people working together to give the students the best education possible.
I have my own children, and I know they are totally different at home than at school. It’s just trying to find that balance for every child. It’s like with everything, trying to find a balance between your home and school, and the student’s home and school, and trying to make everything happen. I always tell my students on the first day of school: We are stuck together for the whole year. Let’s have a good time while we are here.
One of the most meaningful moments for me as a teacher this past year was when some former students of mine that were in high school came back to visit me recently. It was great reminiscing with them and hearing all that they remembered about the things I had taught them and the things I had said to them. It was so wonderful. It was one of the most wonderful experiences for me as a teacher, just seeing how they turned out as young adults.
Interview and article by Gregory Andrus. To see more of his work, visit www.potjs.com