Noelle: Perry Hollins is a fourth-grade teacher at Oakton Elementary School in Illinois. I am so happy I got to meet this radio DJ, turned substitute teacher, turned full-time educator. He strives to create a project-based learning environment for his students that incorporates knowledge from their cultural backgrounds into their learning.
Perry Hollins: For me, it really boils down to engagement. When I first started, all students were remote.
Like I said, I would open it up with just sharing, and we would just talk. I would really get curious about their life. Tell me more. That built trust in them that like, "Oh, he actually is curious because he's using all of this time, in the beginning to just get curious about my life and the things that [are] going on." To the point now where they're sharing almost everything with me and what they're working on outside of the Zoom space. I have daily themes like Monday is Motivation Monday.
When I put up my Google Slides for Monday morning, it's always in the stream, something about what's keeping you motivated, what's going to keep you motivated throughout the week. I use that as content to teach, even though they're engaging with one another about topics. Sometimes the topics can get a little off where I'm like, "Okay, let's clean it up. What's going on here?" They're fourth graders, so sometimes they want to go on tangents, but I'm using that as content for instruction. I'm like, okay, I can bring these things back up at some point.
We have Talent Tuesday. What is your talent? Wednesday is Wisdom Wednesday, so we'll look at African Proverbs. Thursday is Black Excellence Thursday, and then Friday is Flex on Them. Just basically, what can you do that nobody else can do? Flex on them. What have you been learning this week?
What are you doing that keeps them engaged for the most part throughout the day? I can always go back. When I'm thinking about how I'm going to introduce a lesson, "What did Deandre say today? Oh, he said that he was going to his friend's house who has a very hyper dog and he's scared of dogs. All right. I'm going to try to figure out a way to incorporate that into compare and contrast. Compare two different types of dogs. Which one would you..." We're studying text structure or something like that.
And that way, there's an emotional connection to the content so that I can drive home those standards that I need to be addressing.
Noelle: Kitty Donohoe is the embodiment of the phrase “believe in your dreams.” An elementary teacher based in California, Kitty has been an educator for over 30 years and is looking forward to releasing her debut children’s novel, How to Ride a Dragonfly. Who better to discuss the power of reading and teaching with than her?
Kitty Donohoe: It's true, teachers do have a lot foisted upon them. I think what helps me is to always keep my eye on the students. I have to say, even in the height of the pandemic before I was vaccinated and when we were all on Zoom school, that time every day when I was with my second graders, now third graders, I forgot there was a pandemic because their little faces were right in front of me.
One thing that has never changed with all the ups and downs in education is that I love the children so much. If I put my focus on them and as I said, they are the curriculum, and what are their needs, then it all falls into place. Because you're right with my garden, I just love going out there with the students or even by myself to think a little bit when it's lunchtime or something. You could say it is a little reflective of our times. We're just trying so hard to get a balance after everything all of us have been through and I'm so grateful to be in person with the students again. That is just so edifying. I can't even begin to say it. I really think if we always, as teachers, I know for myself, think about the kids, they bring so much joy to my life and that has never, ever stopped. Any stressors in education, it's not the children, and I can honestly say that.
Noelle: The best person who I can think of to end this episode on teacher love is Angelica Moreno, a kindergarten teacher at the Dual Language Academy in El Paso, Texas. Angelica is such a positive force and strives to create a safe place for her students to feel seen and heard.
Angelica Moreno: I would say that this pandemic has proved to me that I'm not ready to retire. Because I've learned and I realized how much I miss the kids, how much I miss being with the kids, having the kids in front of me, listening to them, teaching them.
Noelle: A huge thank you to all of our guests from this season and all those before it. Every day the podcast production team is inspired by your love for this profession and for your students. To all of the teachers out there that have worked so tirelessly throughout the year, thank you, and I’ll see you next season.
If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the Teachers in America podcast, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be the first to hear new episodes of Teachers in America, by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy today’s show, please rate, review, and share it with your network. You can find the transcript of this episode on our Shaped blog by visiting hmhco.com/shaped. The link is in the show notes.Teachers in America is produced by HMH.
Thanks for listening! Your friend, Noelle.