Teacher. That’s me, and I love the label!
After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in elementary education, I began teaching fourth grade in Munster, Indiana, in 1983. After three years, the district started a gifted and talented program, and I became the teacher of a full-time magnet class. In 2002, I moved closer to home to teach fourth grade advanced classes in Schererville, Indiana. What does all of this mean? Yep, 34 years of teaching and still going strong!
How can you enjoy teaching for so long? Carpe diem. Enjoy each day. Grab every opportunity. Take risks. Live large.
If you want to learn more, check out 9 Steps to Enjoy Teaching.
Though every teacher’s journey is different, I’d like to share some activities that stoked my enthusiasm over the years.
Living in the Space Age – Timing is everything! When I began teaching in the 80’s, aerospace education was all the rage. I lacked the experience necessary to apply for the Teacher in Space Project, but there were plenty of other opportunities for a newbie like me. At the NASA Summer Education Institute, I became certified to use real moon rocks in my classroom and learned about the Aerospace Education Conference. (That’s me below waiting to board my ride to Orlando, where I met pioneers in aviation, as well as astronauts.) In 1992, I collaborated with a ham radio operator to bring SAREX to my school. Watching our students speak live to astronauts aboard the Columbia space shuttle brought tears to my eyes!
Exploring the Great Lakes – Thanks to a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship, I immersed myself in the Great Lakes during the summer of 1989. Lilly offers significant funding (now $12,000) for up to 100 Indiana teachers to explore special areas of interest each year. For me, Lilly’s goal “to help Indiana public school teachers renew their commitment to teaching” has indeed resulted in “renewed energy, enthusiasm and creativity.” Now, 27 years later, I still use many of the materials I discovered or created during that summer.
National Board Certification – Through the NBCT process, I learned to base decisions on sound educational standards, use clear learning progressions, and reflect on how my teaching affects each student’s learning. Therefore, I feel confident that my decisions are in my students’ best interest (even when administrators disagree). This confidence helps me enjoy teaching even more.
Mentoring – I love working with budding educators! Every cadet teacher, student teacher, or new teacher has something to teach me.
Grant Writing – How can a teacher get classroom materials, computers, funding for summer programs, and more? By writing grants, of course. Creating fundable projects and programs provides opportunities for focused collegiality, calculated risk-taking, and professional challenge.
Designing Instructional Materials – Throughout my career, I dabbled in curriculum and instructional design. Then, one summer day in 2012, I stepped off an airplane in Atlanta, ready to join the LearnZillion Dream Team. The learning curve was steep, but over the course of a week, I learned how to create digital instructional units. In January of 2013, I took the plunge and became a seller on Teachers pay Teachers. Creating polished materials for my class—and sharing it with others—has really kept me going!
Enjoying Each Moment – More than anything else, the small stuff has kept me coming back to teaching. Packing the year with motivational activities makes learning fun for my students . . . and for me. For example, look who’s just joined our class for a nutrition experiment!