Placer High School, Auburn, California
What was the most memorable classroom moment in your first year of teaching?
This first full year of teaching comes after many years of substitute teaching and being involved in classrooms through my children. I decided to become a teacher later in life after having many other professions; my favorite being stay at home mom. When my daughters started school full time, I came to the realization that I loved teaching, and teaching teenagers. I believe I have found a niche for myself; teaching literature and language, which I love, to students that I enjoy. Engaging students in lively conversations about literature may seem dull to some, but I absolutely thrill when I see students relating texts to their own lives and learning to use language to express themselves. While it is hard to pin down one moment that stands out above the rest, the singular moment I remember came when a student told me "Mrs. Udall, you are going to be one of those teachers." I asked what kind of teacher was that. "A teacher I remember." That is a goal of mine as a teacher. If nothing else, students who leave my class will feel like they mattered, and that I cared about them.
2) What's a specific example of how you believe your teaching helped a student, or students?
One of the joys of teaching English is getting a peek into the inner lives of my students. Through classroom writing, I get a look at experiences they have had which they can relate to literature and to various themes. Classroom discussions about themes can lead to personal interactions which build a supportive classroom environment. I consider it a privilege if students feel comfortable enough to share personal stories of triumph or defeat. I always mention that they can be as open as they feel that they want, and that their stories will be seen by only me. One particular student shared a difficult situation with me in a writing assignment. This was heartbreaking for me to read; however, I had the same experience when I was young. I was able to make comments on her paper about how she was my hero for staying strong, and that I knew she was a stronger, more resilient person because of that experience. I shared that I had gone through the same thing, and that I had used the experience to build compassion and more love in my life. She was nervous when she got her paper back, but after she read the comments, she was beaming. She told me "I am going to keep this for the rest of my life!" I was so happy to not only have been an example to her as far as the writing assignment, but also an example of life lessons learned, and the ability to thrive even through difficulty. I feel that my life experiences can be passed onto my students in such a way that can inspire and motivate my students to push themselves to succeed.
3) What are you most looking forward to in your second year of teaching?
I look forward to continue learning and applying lessons learned from this year. From curriculum decisions to classroom management, I know that daily I can improve. One of the reasons I love teaching is the opportunity to continue learning. Professional development is important to learn the latest in effective teaching and curriculum. However, developing relationships with more students is what keeps me engaged and excited to continue to teach.