CENTER GROVE ELEMENTARY2014-15 Teacher of the Year
KIM KINGSubject and Grade Level: 1st Grade
Years of Experience: 8
Excerpt from Opening Day speech:Today we look to the year ahead with hope and optimism... To be truly exceptional we need to stop listening to the negative voices regarding our profession and instead we need to identify the experts that are down in the trenches with us. We need to actively collaborate, share our expertise, share our weaknesses and own our exceptional status.... So when the negatives that are bombarding our profession start to get you down, remember your superpowers, embrace being exceptional, and have a great year!
Click here to read Kim King's entire Opening Day speech.
Excerpt from Teacher of the Year applicationTo me, teaching is important because:
Why is teaching important to me? I can vividly remember writing a glowing, uplifting, ego-boosting essay on the merits of teaching for one of my education classes. "Teaching profoundly influences lives, mold and shapes young minds, and establishes a love of learning in every one of a teacher's precious charges. Teaching is important because it impacts society for good- it changes the world in a positive way. Teaching would allow me to work on hearts and minds."
Everything I wrote in that essay was true. But there was also a nugget of truth that I left out. My first love, the thing I wanted to be, was not a teacher. I was, and in many ways still am, a systems analyst. I am a second career teacher and when I was writing that essay, I was at a crossroads. I had taken a leave from my job at Eli Lilly and Company to raise a family. I was at the point I need to choose - corporate America (with less opportunities at that time for flexible working hours) or a teaching career with a schedule that would match my kids' schedule. While I had always loved kids - had been a "teacher" of Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and even employed for a while as a preschool teacher, I thought I wanted to be a teacher because it "fit" my life. I had not envisioned a career of working with children and had not established an altruistic realization of the importance of teaching. Honestly, in that decision making process I remember thinking, "How hard can it be?"
That offhand comment, "How hard can it be?", has come back a myriad of times to humble me over the last eight years.
How hard can it be when your first year teaching you are given a room of students made up of a group of special education students, one who randomly "meows" throughout the day, and a group of high-achieving academically gifted students whose parents have banded together to see that they are challenged?
How hard can it be when a misbehaving boy in your charge crawls under a table and refuses to come out because he is "bad and no one loves him"? How hard can it be when the reality sets in that you are possibly the only positive light, the only loving person that child will see in his life that day and you need to show that love even when he wrecks your room and your well formulated lesson plans?
How hard can it be when a sweet little girl comes charging in on a Monday morning and wraps herself around your thigh in spider monkey fashion and cries with tears cascading down her cheeks "My mommy and daddy don't love each other anymore. We're getting divorced."? How hard can it be to comfort her and help her to hold it together for the school day, dam up the watershed tears in your own eyes, and still greet, herd, and teach dozens of other students?
How hard can it be to work diligently with a student, enlist every assistant and parent resource that you can muster, search for new methods of teaching, implement every allowable accommodation, research and try every intervention available to you, and still not see growth? How hard can it be to look into the eyes of parents and tell them that their precious child has a learning disability? How hard can it be to convince them that their hopes and dreams are still there, to not give up, to not give in, to keep striving?
As to be expected, I truly found out how hard it can be to be a teacher. It is impossibly hard. As a teacher, I have never had a day where I felt like I had done enough. Maybe Johnny would have gotten that concept the first time, if only I had tried teaching it this way. Maybe the confrontation between Susie and Billy would not have occurred if I had changed seats last week. Maybe I should have communicated a little sooner or in a more direct fashion with that parent, that co-worker, that administrator. Maybe...
Why do I think teaching is important? The answer to that question is profoundly different today than it was eight years ago and, along the way; the importance of the teaching profession began to take shape and became more defined.
After spending eight years “in the trenches”, I have come to realize that being a teacher is so much more than a job with great summer and holiday breaks. It is an ever changing roller coaster ride and I am the chameleon engineer-always changing, always incorporating new ideas, always trying new methods and interventions, always learning, always adapting, and always wondering what more I can do.
One of my acquaintances who, like the “me” of eight years ago, is uninformed in her understanding of education, once said “Aww, that’s so sweet that you teach First Grade. They are so cute at that age. Your days must be so fun playing with kids and getting all those hugs. I mean, it’s not like it is brain surgery or anything.” After I politely smiled and mentally crossed her off my Christmas card list, I started to think about what she said, Yes, First Grade can be fun not in the playing hide and seek kind of way but in watching eager minds experience new things, observing parent dependent offspring learning to be independent, and yes, experiencing exuberant lovers of life giving the best hugs around. She is right. Teaching is not at all like brain surgery, but more like brain transformation. Often as teacher, you are asked how many IEP students you have in your room. I always tongue-in-cheek answer that I have 27 IEPS-27 unique individuals who have 27 different life experiences and 27 different ways of learning and grasping material. While I do not perform any type of physical surgery in the classroom, except for a few non-compliant zippers, frayed shoe strings or broke flip flops. I do analyze each brain, each learner, and adapt my teaching to best meet their needs. How hard can that be? While worthwhile, it is exhaustingly hard.
I am convinced that the work of schools and teachers is vitally important to the future success of our children. The importance and impact of teachers on the lives of their students is profound because teachers care about their students. People come and go in the loves of students, but almost everyone you meet can tell you the name of, and probably a funny anecdote about, an important teacher in their life. I invest myself in my students, attempt to create a positive learning environment, and try to develop a relationship that makes each student fell loved. Relationships that recognize a few “meows” are not an intentional disruption or attention seeking gesture but a sign of distress and a cry out for comfort, Relationships that lead to students who are responsive to my teaching. Students who realize they are valued are more likely to learn and engage.
Teachers are often students’ confidant-telling us things they are not comfortable telling anyone else- things that make you laugh inside at their innocence and things that rip you to the core for their loss of innocence. Teachers work hard to establish student trust. Trust to share burdens, to admit faults, to alleviate fears. Comfortable students participate, ask for help, and strive to do their best. Comfortable students believe you when you tell them that a divorced family will feel different for a while but the divorce was not their fault and that they are still loved by their family and teacher. Comfortable students pay attention to both the “preaching” and the praise. Comfortable students often slip up and call you “mom.”
When students sense genuine interest, they are motivated and strive to challenge themselves academically.
Teachers possess a great power to influence and clearly shape America’s future. In a 2012 study, the RAND Corporation, a leading research nonprofit, found that “teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling,” They said, “When it comes student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.” Every day when I walk into my classroom, I am directly influencing each of my students’’ futures. How hard can that be? It is formidably hard.
While many educators feel that teaching is their passion, their mission, or even their identity, I still feel like a systems analyst. The medium I work with is no longer a computer or lines of code; instead my medium is young children with minds that are aching to be stretched with knowledge, hearts that need to be filled with the love of learning, and lives and futures that are directly impacted by the imparting knowledge. Why is teaching important to me? My declaration in that paper of long ago still holds true. I want to profoundly influence lives, mold and shape young minds, and establish a love of learning in every one of my precious charges, I want to impact society for good- to change the world in a positive way. But this time as I write it, I do know how hard it can be.