How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.

 

Kappa Delta Pi’s Response to Charlottesville

The sad and tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12 are a stark reminder of the importance and relevance of our work as educators. As members of Kappa Delta Pi, a storied organization with a 106-year legacy of inclusion and equity, we call on our members to take action.

First, stand united with us in support of our mission and vision for empowering, preparing, sustaining, and supporting teachers as they advocate for the best interests of students. We remain committed to the goal of advancing instruction so that students are globally aware, socially responsible, resilient, and able to solve problems in just and equitable ways.

Second, take an active role in developing empathy in ourselves and our students, and in modeling respect for others and tolerance for those whose ideas and beliefs are different than our own. By incorporating a social justice approach to education, young people of all backgrounds will learn that they are not victims of their circumstances and that they can become part of the desperately needed change to disrupt and eliminate inequities.

Third, directly confront and counter racism and discrimination, and provide a healthy and caring way to address these difficult issues. Silence supports a colorblind perspective that exists in many school settings and communities. As educators, we must work together and support one another to educate children who are committed to creating a better and more just society.

We can reach these goals by explicitly teaching current events like the one in Charlottesville to our students and helping them to understand the consequences of these actions. One person can make a difference; however, by working together as a profession, we can have an even more powerful impact on making our schools, our communities, and our world a better place.

Dr. Peggy Moch, Executive Council President (2016–2018)
Faye Snodgress, Executive Director

From Dropout to Doctoral Degree

Stories about hard work and perseverance are uplifting and give hope to others.

While those stories are inspirational, they often focus on only one side of the story—the student.

As a student, I was a diamond in the rough, but the other side of the story is that I owe my success to a nontraditional high school, my high school principal, and a teacher who saved my life.

The odds were against me. I was born into poverty and throughout my elementary years, I changed schools at least twice per year, every year. By eighth grade, I had given up on education; I did not care about grades or school. I started failing classes and, ultimately, ended up repeating eighth grade. I continued to switch schools often, as I jumped back and forth between divorced parents.

During my ninth-grade year, I left home. I met a boy, became pregnant, and my parents no longer welcomed me. Luckily, I moved in with his family and, for once in my life, had a steady home. I continued in school, but faced new obstacles. I was 16 and needed to work to support my family. I was juggling high school, a family, and working 30+ hours a week. In tenth grade, it all became too much for me and I dropped out of high school—lowering my odds of success even more. I was a statistic.

I knew there had to be a better way. I soon learned about an alternative high school for kids just like me. Little did I know this high school and the staff would be my saving grace. The school was located in a portable building and had approximately 20 students, with one principal and four teachers. The “go at your own pace” format allowed students to work and attend school part time. Students completed modules to obtain a basic high school diploma.

The staff made the high school effective. Mr. Finley, our principal, provided moral support and words of wisdom to build our confidence. He helped find scholarships and encouraged community college. He personally called if we missed school to make sure everything was okay and to offer transportation. He built trusting relationships with the students, and we knew that when times were rough, Mr. Finley would say the right things to help us get over the hump.

Ms. Baker, one of my teachers, excelled in relationship building. She monitored our progress and encouraged with incentives. She stocked the refrigerator with snacks and sodas for us to purchase. When someone earned credit, Ms. Baker rewarded them with a coupon for goodies in the refrigerator. We met with her often to discuss progress and, when students were within one credit required for graduation, Ms. Baker baked a cake to celebrate their success. We were a family at that little school. We counted on Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker for more than just academics; they believed in us when others did not. They offered kindness, love, and support that made learning enjoyable.

The last time I saw them was a warm May evening when I proudly strutted across the stage in a purple cap and gown as my name was called aloud. I wish they could know that was not the last time I walked across the stage. I strutted across three more times for undergraduate and master’s degrees. In May 2018, I will walk across a stage once again, dressed in velvet regalia as I am awarded a doctoral degree in education. I want Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker to know that without them, this would not have been possible. I am forever grateful for their love and support.

Nicole Koch is a first-grade teacher in Central Texas. She is currently finishing a doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Mary Hardin–Baylor. Among her research interests is student preparedness in the 21st-century workforce.

Unsung Hero: Jolene Daw

Jolene was, to me, in many ways, the most influential teacher I had throughout my educational journey to becoming a teacher.

She taught a general beginning college class, but she did such an awesome job that she has had a hand in everything I do now.

While most professors I’ve had really did not pay much attention to details, she was very attentive to every aspect of at least what I did. From what I could tell, my classmates all thought so as well.

But what has really stuck with me is how she always made time to talk with me long after I was no longer her student. She was my mentor through my entire time at Grand Canyon University (GCU).

We have been in touch since my graduation and it is ALWAYS great to speak with her. She was the only one of my instructors that I wanted to meet up with as a part of my celebration to graduation. She even had lunch with me and my wife at Cooperstown in Pheonix.

Throughout my degree path, she encouraged me to always do my best and would even critique some of my research papers—giving me ideas and thoughts that I could use to better my presented report prior to submission, when I was not in her class anymore. This was something she would do for me up to my final benchmarks as a senior.

Did I mention that my degree was obtained via an online program?

We never met face-to-face until having lunch, and I had no idea what she looked like, but I knew how much her support meant to me! She was at the time, the youngest professor in the online instructional program for GCU, but displayed a remarkable amount of knowledge and experience.

One thing she also did for me was give me the courage to not just continue in getting my bachelor’s degree but to push forward in working on a master’s, which I plan to start in fall or spring, at the latest. She, on several occasions, told me that if I did that she would back me on an application to teach in the program and become a colleague. I will be attempting to do just that after obtaining my masters degree.

I am sure that I would have completed my degree had I not had her in my corner. I am also sure that, without her support, I would not have finished with a 3.87 GPA, I would not have been Magna Cum Laude, and my drive to move forward in my education would not be as strong as it is now.

Jolene is my hero, my guide in many ways, and I am proud to say that I call her my friend.

I am looking forward to hopefully be calling her my colleague in the future as well.

What are 5 characteristics or qualities that make Jolene an outstanding educator?

  1. She is remarkably attentive to students’ needs.
  2. She has a unique perspective.
  3. She is not afraid to listen to thoughts and opinions of her students—even if they do not parallel her own.
  4. She is very encouraging when it comes to pushing students to strive to be the best they can.
  5. She is extremely smart—not just in her knowledge, but in her ability to transmit this knowledge to students.

Jolene Daw, Faculty in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University, is being recognized by Terrell Martin (Grand Canyon University).

Click the above image for more information about Unsung Hero Week 2017.

To support KDP’s work to retain effective teachers like Jolene, make a tax-deductible donation today.

Unsung Hero: Anita Caref

On the heels of a crisis of direction in my career, I met Anita.

I had burnt out at my dream job and I moved to Chicago in a series of professional upheavals.

I was not sure if I was actually much good at teaching despite my passion for education. I had been at the City Colleges of Chicago for almost two years and was feeling frustrated with my work and my new city.

When Anita joined the adult education department at CCC, I quickly realized I had found a kindred spirit in education—a colleague and friend who would be that person that would anchor me to the work I wanted to do and to the kind of people I enjoy being around.

In this, as her personality and kindness are naturally inclined to do, she has never faltered. I have been grateful for knowing and connecting with Anita since we first shared disbelief about CCC adult education “curriculum”.

Besides supporting the teaching I wanted to do, she helped me hone my skills to do it.

Reading and observing other programs and classrooms through her connections, I learned so many of the things have brought me to that oft-elusive level in teaching of feeling truly competent in my work and my skills as an educator.

It is through Anita and her advocacy for progressive pedagogical approaches and a more wholistic education for the students at CCC, that I found hope in working at City Colleges and a belief that I could still do the work that I had spent the better part of my adolescence and adulthood deeply committed to doing.

For these gifts of professional confidence and personal warmth, friendship and colleagueship, I am forever grateful.

What are 5 characteristics or qualities that make Anita an outstanding educator?

  1. Intelligence
  2. Support
  3. Warmth
  4. Kindness
  5. Determination

Anita Caref, Adult Education Language Arts Reading Specialist at City Colleges of Chicago, is being recognized by Daniel Stein.

Click the above image for more information about Unsung Hero Week 2017.

To support KDP’s work to retain effective teachers like Anita, make a tax-deductible donation today.

Unsung Hero: Dr. Maryann Wilkey

I was 44 years old when I enrolled at Barton college to pursue an Elementary Education degree.

I was afraid and nervous, and I didn’t know if I had what it took—first to be a teacher and second to be a Barton Bulldog.

My first major education class was Assessments and Dr. Wilkey was the professor.

Many of the other students had taken classes with her before and knew the expectations. That first night my heart sank. She asked questions and it appeared to me that I was the only one she was calling on.

I went in the bathroom during break and cried. However, after a while, I realized I was being silly and came to my senses.

The remaining seven classes, I tried to learn everything I could from Dr. Wilkey because she saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. She pushed me and others to do better than good. Good was not good enough, but I did not have that mindset until I met Dr Wilkey.

I enjoyed her classes and couldn’t wait to see what we were going to do next. She had a way of motivating her students to strive for the next level.

Even still today, she is concerned about her students

I think to myself often, “What Would Jesus Do?” and then, “What Would Dr. Wilkey Do?”

She is truly an awesome teacher, citizen and friend.

What are 5 characteristics or qualities that make Dr. Wilkey an outstanding educator?

  1. Motivator
  2. Intelligent
  3. Passionate
  4. Visionary
  5. Driven

Dr. Maryann Wilkey, Professor at Barton College, is being recognized by Marsha Foreman (Barton College).

Click the above image for more information about Unsung Hero Week 2017.

To support KDP’s work to retain effective teachers like Maryann, make a tax-deductible donation today.

Unsung Hero: Mary Hightshue

Mary has taught French at our high school for decades, and she has always done it in a high relationship, life changing kind of way.

This manifests daily via her interactions with students and through her leadership of a summer study-abroad program that Mary has coordinated for many years.

Mary is retiring in a few weeks, and though some folks retire every year, I have not found myself as emotional over the loss of other consummate teaching pros’ departures.

She IS the best of what Zionsville Community High School stands for.

She will be sorely missed and revered for her service to youth always.

What are characteristics or qualities that make Mary an outstanding educator?

  1. Wisdom skillfully imparted about the power of world language study to a student’s whole life.
  2. Interpersonal linkage with students at every level, novice through accomplished.

Mary Hightshue, Teacher at Zionsville Community High School, is being recognized by Scott Robison (Superintendent, Zionsville Community Schools).

Click the above image for more information about Unsung Hero Week 2017.

To support KDP’s work to retain effective teachers like Mary, make a tax-deductible donation today.