Educator Jennifer D. shares about her passion for reading, her grandmother’s inspiration, and the importance of having a teacher bestie.
“After 18 years, I still get excited about back to school set up and planning, but nothing will ever match that first year of pure joy and nervous excitement!”
Hi Jennifer! Tell us about yourself as a teacher. Where do you teach and how long have you been in the field?
I’m in my 18th year as an elementary educator. Most of those classroom years have been in 1st grade. I currently teach in Las Vegas, Nevada.
You are truly a Practical Primary Teacher! Why did you choose to become a teacher? Has it always been your plan to teach in an elementary school?
My grandmother was an amazing teacher. As a kid, we spent many days playing school at her house because she had all the best supplies! There are so many teachers in my family, I feel like it’s in my blood. I remember setting up summer “school” for the neighborhood kids when I was younger and I loved to teach them! I completed my bachelor’s degree, then relocated and worked for a few years (not in the teaching field). Four years later, I returned to school for a one-year Master of Arts in Teaching program.
Wow, a family of educators!
Yes – I’ve had many people who have helped me along the way, but I think the conversations I had with my grandmother and my sister are the ones I remember the most. I am so lucky to have a sister who is also a teacher.
Jennifer, tell me about a student who has inspired you to be your best self as a teacher.
I had a little boy several years ago who was just a tough kid, even according to his parents. He was extremely intelligent, but very sensitive and never wanted to be ‘put on the spot’ in any way. I learned a lot about picking the important things to focus on and just letting some things go. For example, he wouldn’t speak or participate in most whole group activities, so I just let him observe for months until he was ready to join in. I remember we had a big speaking presentation in the second half of the year. His parents and I were nervous and we ended up having his mom sit with him while he presented, but he did a really great job. I was so happy that he felt secure enough to do it!
Part of being a teacher is seeing what each individual needs to be comfortable and successful in your classroom.
You know, I’ve had moments in my career where it feels like the stars align and I just KNOW that I became a teacher for thismoment! Can you share a moment when you knew that you were “in the right place” as a teacher?
I think that would be when I was setting up my very first classroom! The whole summer before school started, I was writing down plans, buying little things from the dollar store for stations, and planning what my classroom would look like. I still get excited about back to school set up and planning, but nothing will ever match that first year of pure joy and nervous excitement!
I’m sure that many teachers out there – new and experienced – can relate! Speaking of new teachers, what is your favorite thing about meeting a new teacher teammate?
I love that they bring new ideas and viewpoints…a fresh outlook on things.
Let’s talk about the challenges of teaching – the authentic reality of doing this complex work for years. How do you recharge your batteries each day so you can be your best for your students?
I love to relax with my family and pets, create teaching resources, garden, or just work around my house. I also love to create new classroom resources.
It’s no secret that talented, dedicated teachers leave our profession every year. What have been some of your ways of staying balanced, healthy and passionate about this work – especially when the going gets tough?
I am so lucky to have a sister who is also a teacher. We’ve been teaching for the same amount of time and have had a lot of the same feelings and challenges throughout our careers. We can have real, unfiltered conversations about things. It’s nice to debrief, vent, etc. so that we can be at our best in the classroom.
You MUST have a trusted someone to talk to. It is so important to get things off your chest and out of your heart and not be judged. If those feelings or frustrations stay bottled up, you cannot be at your best in the classroom. I’ve always been lucky to have supportive administrators as well, so, if possible, find an administrator who will support and respect you and your work.
Jennifer, what do you absolutely love about your students? How do they inspire you?
First graders are fun to be around! They love to hear about my life. They love when I introduce new books. They love to make me laugh. And, they’re always full of compliments and sweet notes for me. I just love their innocence and excitement about what we do each day.
Thank you for your time today! Finally, Jennifer, we’d love to know: Why do you still love teaching?
I love when my emergent readers begin to make that progress and recognize that THEY ARE READING!! Finally, as tough as teaching can be, I get little reminders of what an amazing and important profession it is every day! The progress, success, and enthusiasm of my students is what keeps me coming back each year!
Jennifer – you inspire us to keep connected with those who lift us up, to go to any lengths for that *one* student, and to always follow our passions. How can we stay connected with you or see your great work? Instagram @practicalprimaryteacher TpThttps://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Practical-Primary-Teacher Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/practicalprimaryteacher/