What career path can lead to an effective teacher?

Posted by Ronald | January 20, 2014  |  No Comment

Ali Weimer is the 2012 Teacher of the Year for Avondale Elementary School and Marion School District in Marion, Ark. Weimer is also the 2013 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. An excerpt of the interview with her follows:

What career path led to your teaching profession?

I was fortunate to know before I ever attended my first college class that the career I wanted to pursue was a teacher.  Once arriving at college, I declared my major in Early Childhood Education.  I attended Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro, Ark. and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. During my fourth year of teaching, I returned to ASU and received a Master of Science in Educational Leadership.  This spring, I plan to purse a doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

What educational background and/or professional training are essential for this profession?

There are two things I believe are necessary for this profession.  They are: extensive time in the field as a pre-service teacher and a strong mentor the first two years on the job.  I think students who are studying to become a teacher need a chance to experience classroom life early in their educational program.  How will you know if you truly like teaching if you are never in a classroom?  Studying theory is important, but seeing how theory looks in practice is essential.  Students who seek to become a teacher need to be given a wide variety of experiences, as well as in different school settings.  They need to spend numerous days in the life of a teacher experiencing all types of situations rather good, bad or ugly.

The second crucial training component to this profession is being assigned a strong mentor your first or preferably second year of teaching. I was assigned a mentor my first year of teaching and it was invaluable to me. I have read about schools that are extending the mentor program one more year, requiring teachers to have a mentor their first two years on the job.  I think this is an excellent idea.  Year two can be just as overwhelming as year one.  Having a mentor one more year, I think, would ensure that we retain more of our best and brightest teachers in the classroom.

Some individuals might think that once you become a teacher for a couple of years, your professional training is done. However, effective teachers are never done learning. They are never finished training.  Effective teachers continuously strive to perfect their craft in order to make certain they meet the diverse needs of all of their students.  This is one of the best things about teaching; you get to be a student for life!

What influenced you to pursue a career in your profession?

I have always had a desire to be a teacher. Just as a preacher is called to preach, I truly believe that I was called to teach. To hear my mom tell it, I have been practicing to become a teacher since the age of five with my first student being my younger sister, Erika. The question for me has always been, “What grade do I want to teach?” That question was answered for me the minute I walked into Mrs. Cindy’s kindergarten class on my first day as a teacher intern. Her class was magical.  The first thing you noticed about Mrs. Cindy was her classroom decor.  Everything about her room screamed excitement!  On her classroom door was a three dimensional tree that resembled the coconut tree from the classic children’s book, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”  The moment I saw her room I immediately thought to myself, “I want my classroom to be this cool one day.” When Mrs. Cindy started teaching, you knew she wanted her kids to fall in love with learning.  She made teaching come to life.  I left each day of that eight-week period in awe of the way she captivated her students.  After that experience, there was no question that kindergarten was the place for me.

What professional, civic or community organization do you belong?

I am a member of three professional organizations: Delta Kappa Gamma (DKG), the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA) and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY).  DKG is an international organization for women educators.  Each year, our local chapter puts on a tea party for young girls in order to raise money and provide one local high school student a scholarship for college.  We also do community service projects as many of the activities benefit students in our local schools. ASTA is a non-union professional organization. In November 2013, I was featured in the AAE’s national publication, “Education Matters.”  NNSTOY is a professional organization of National and State Teachers of the Year.  Focused on assuring that every student has access to excellent teachers, this organization is committed to bringing the voice of teachers into policy making and to advocate for the profession.

What advice do you give to students who desire to pursue a career as a teacher?

To thrive in the teaching profession, you must love this job. This job requires passion, compassion and perseverance. This job is incredibly challenging, stressful and thankless at times; but it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your lifetime. So, you must lead with your heart. Believe in yourself. You do not become the “best teacher ever” over night; just like anything else, it takes time.

What is your typical work day? 

My typical work day is jam packed with non-stop action and fun. My classroom is rarely quiet and hardly ever still.  My students are mobile, actively engaged and very chatty in a good way to foster learning.  I have a teacher’s desk in my classroom; however, you will not find me there when my students are present.  Frequently, you will find me on the carpet, right on the front lines with my “kiddos.”  When I am not there, I am walking around, observing and actively listening to my students in action.  Other times, I am in my “teaching chair” as I call it, presenting a mini lesson to my “kiddos.”  In the afternoons, you will find me at my reading table, guiding a small group of students at a time through a book that is just right for them.  While waiting on their turn, the others are at work stations, practicing the skills we have been learning that week.  With each day of the year, it is my ultimate goal that my classroom becomes less about me and more about my students.

As such, I spend 99 percent of my day doing my best to make sure that my kids fall in love with learning. I understand that not everything in life can be fun.  However, the more relevant, hands-on, and conversational that I can make learning, the less my students view learning as work and the more they view learning as fun and exciting.  Even when it is challenging, I strive to instill in them that they are ready to dive in and tackle any challenge that comes their way; I want them to believe that through hard work and perseverance, anything is possible!  I am very fortunate to go to a job every day that never feels like work.  It is my hope that my kids leave each day feeling the same way.

 Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of four books, “Education Questions to be Answered,”  “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing and “Professional Career Paths.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].






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