Podcast

Podcast: Tapping Pencils and Classroom Management with Stacy Salter

32 Min Read
Stacy Salter Hero Banner 1

Photo: Elementary teacher Stacy Salter has been an educator for five years.

Welcome back to Teachers in America, where we celebrate teachers and their lasting impact on students' learning journeys and lives.

Today we meet with Stacy Salter, fifth-grade teacher from Woodland Elementary in Henry County, Georgia. You can follow her teacher journey on Twitter.

A full transcript of the episode appears below; it has been edited for clarity.

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

Noelle Morris: Welcome to Teachers in America, a production of HMH, where we celebrate teachers and recognize their triumphs, challenges, sacrifices, and dedication to students. We see you. We want our listeners to feel not only inspired by the practice, but to also have a renewed sense of community.

I am the Senior Director of Community Engagement, Noelle Morris. Each episode, I meet a new teacher friend and learn about the latest lessons and innovations from the classroom.

In this episode, I met with Stacy Salter, a fifth-grade teacher from Woodland Elementary in Henry County, Georgia.

She earned her bachelor’s in Early Childhood and Special Education from Grand Canyon University, and her master’s from Thomas University in Curriculum and Instruction. Since then, she has taught 4th and 5th grade, and will step into her new role as an Early Intervention Program Math Teacher for grades K-5 for the 2022-2023 school year.

Although Stacy had always wanted to be a teacher, circumstances led her to becoming a licensed customs broker for 27 years before she finally found her calling. Now in her own classroom, Stacy strives to see the whole child and build strong relationships to support struggling students.

I felt a connection right away with Stacy. So much of her story runs parallel to my own, and the fact that she finally found her way into the classroom after years in a different industry is simply inspiring. In the end, she knew what was going to bring her joy and fulfillment, and she went after it. We should all be so brave.

Now, let’s get to the episode.

Welcome to Teachers in America, Stacy. I'm so excited to meet you. First of all, I just have to say I love your name. Stacy Salter definitely has stage presence. Tell me and our listeners a little bit about yourself, and we'll get right into your teacher journey.

Stacy Salter: Thank you. First of all, Noelle, I'm just beyond honored to be on this podcast. Currently, I teach fifth-grade math and science. This is my fifth year teaching, and I'm probably a lot older than some teachers that have been teaching for five years. I did start my teaching journey when I was 47. I've always wanted to be a teacher. It took me a long time to get here. And I decided to quit my corporate job that I had for 27 years, and I became a paraprofessional in Henry County. I feel like I've been teaching a little bit longer than five years because I was a paraprofessional for four years during my bachelor's degree. I do feel like I got a little bit of experience underneath my belt, but it has been very different at this age teaching in this time that we're in right now with all that's going on.

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Stacy always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, and eventually achieved her dream at 47 years old.

Noelle: Oh, I bet if this has always been in your heart, you're like, "Okay, I'm finally at it." And then year two, it's just "Sorry. You won't be back in person." Moving forward, you'll be teaching virtual. I'm curious what it felt like when you got that call that you were going to be virtual. Because when you're in your first three years, there's just a lot happening, and you're finding your footing, and you're finding yourself, and you're finding your people. And then someone like yourself who has had teaching in their heart, but went in a different path for a while, what emotions were you feeling?

Stacy: Well, I guess, fortunately, because I was in a different career for so long, when they literally gave us a call that Friday and said, "You're going to be virtual on Monday," I did have a lot of experience in technology. For me, I packed everything up, took it in my car, came home. My son is very techy. I was very techy. We cleared off the dining room table. I went and bought a couple of monitors, set up my dining room table, and Monday morning, I was ready to go. Fortunately for me, that was the case. But only because [of] my background. I was a licensed customs broker for 27 years, and so I've been working on computers my entire life. What was interesting was to see all the people around me who were seasoned teachers really freaking out because their backgrounds weren't technology. And it really created just really a pandemic from within, honestly, because teachers were like, "Okay, I know how to teach, but how do I teach behind a computer screen?"

And I wound up being the tech person in the building that people were calling going, "Okay, they cannot hear my sound. My monitor's not on. Somebody call Stacy and have her help us." And I got the principal to order everyone HDMI cords. I knew I always wanted to be a teacher. I had technology in my wheelhouse, and I just picked right back up where I left off. It was easy for me. It wasn't easy for the students, though. It was tough. That first day, Monday, it was tough. And my heart felt for them. And then, honestly, I cried quite a bit at the very beginning. For myself, for my peers, and for the students because this was such an unknown place for all of us. And we did the best we could. And I applaud Henry County Schools for the way that they handled it and still have handled it to this day because we were ready.

Noelle: It sounds like you were blessed and set up for success. What I'm enjoying is, "Oh, there's no toilet paper, but we can get some HDMI cables, and we'll all be okay." Stacy, when you think about your first career, and you spent 27 years there, is there anything that, as a former customs broker, you were able to leverage and bring in as an asset to teaching?

Stacy: I think every aspect of that job I talk about in the classroom. In fact, today, we were doing a lesson in math on using coordinate grids to be able to analyze data. And then the first thing that just literally popped in my mind was, "Okay, guys, in every career that you do, I know this sounds silly, but you're going to be analyzing data." And I was explaining to them what I did as a customs broker and how the numbers and math are going to be in everything, and I would use, "Okay. For example, in Ms. Salter's former career, I would use data to explain when the boats were coming into the port and where the purchase order is going to be on time." And so, I literally use the real stuff, the real-world situations from my previous job.

And I also talk every day about just how you're going to need to be accountable, and you're going to need to be responsible, and you're going to need to have respect for authority. And in any job, you can do that, but when you're working for the U.S. customs system, you have to have a lot of respect for yourself, but a lot of respect for people that you don't necessarily know. And I think that's something we don't do well at teaching but is definitely something that is lacking in the classroom.

Hear from Stacy Salter's Students

Noelle: I love that you tied in the data and the analytics into being such an important part of math. And what I'm understanding is even some of their challenges that students have in fifth grade. What do you hear back from the students when you say, "You're going to use this in your real world as an adult?" What do you hear a fifth grader say back to you?

Stacy: It's funny, because it's almost like they're in awe. The first thing out of their mouth when you talk about science is, "Oh, I'm never going to use this," and I'll take it back, and I'm like, "Okay, you have that laptop, you have that computer in your hand. These are all real-world things that you're going to use." And when you start talking about the data, I just use, "We do a lot of activities where it's real-world situations," and I show them, "This is where you're going to use it. This is going to be culturally relevant to you. In your life, you're going to use this every day." I even told them I was like, "Guys, even if you're digging ditches or you are working for the sanitation company or even the people at Georgia Power are using data to graph how much electricity the grids are in." Every single way that I could connect it in. Sometimes, I think that they don't think that what they're learning is going to matter when they get older, but if you can make that connection, then it becomes a little bit more important to them.

Noelle: You're helping them find their genius. Then they're seeing this possibility of careers and roles and jobs as they continue to grow and think about what they want to be. What would you say was, two things, one an unexpected obstacle blocker for your students, and then what was something that you knew with just a little bit of change or encouragement or access, you'd be able to help them turn the curve?

Stacy: An unexpected obstacle for the students was [that] they were home and there were lots of distractions. And I have experienced this myself personally with my daughter. At one point in time, my daughter was going through some mental health issues, and we had to make a decision during her middle school years that she would be a virtual student, remote student. This was several years ago before virtual became the norm. And she was going to a virtual school; I was trying to get my bachelor's degree working as a single parent. She was doing virtual, and it was difficult for her because there were too many things in her environment that were distracting her from truly giving her undivided attention, although she wanted to. Because I had experienced that with my own child, I really had a lot of grace and patience with the students up front.

And we talked through that; I even shared with them, "Hey guys, I understand my daughter went through remote school. Let's set a plan." And what we did was we all said, "Okay, right now, Ms. Salter has her dining room table, and I have no distractions. I don't have my doggy in here. I don't have the TV on. I'm literally in my own little school environment." We help students create that environment that would be less distracting. Now, it didn't work for everyone. But for the most part, I don't think they realized that they needed that. It really created a lot of maturity in these kids very quickly. Their parents at the time were working when this all first came down.

Now, eventually, parents were being sent home too, but kids were at home alone, trying to figure out how to learn in an environment that they were not used to. It was not structured. Too many distractions. And it really caught a lot of students off guard. And some of them fell through the cracks because of those distractions. We worked really hard, though, to help them realize that they had to create an environment that was good for their learning.

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Stacy's goal is to see "the whole child," no matter how quiet or unassuming they may appear in class.

Noelle: I so appreciate how you were just like, "All right, let me model. Look, I'm in the dining room." And I think part of this is, when I'm listening to you, and I'm thinking there's a lot of our pasts, are parallel. I'm still a single mom. My daughter, we made the decision for her to go to the virtual public school in Florida. I'm a product of a single mom. I'm a latchkey kid with my sister. We had to really do a lot by ourselves at home and think it through. And it sounds like what you were experiencing with your students is also helping them find that agency. That's usually in a controlled environment. They find it and that they're guided, but now they're needing to understand it and then really look and assess and think about what they need to put into place.

Stacy: Yeah. Honestly, Noelle, I didn't even think about it until you just said it, but what I think that the pandemic forced is student ownership of their learning. And to be honest, it is one of those things that teachers have to work really hard at because we are teachers, and we want to guide students, and we want them to be successful, but there comes a time when we definitely have to let it go and let them take a lot more ownership in their learning. I really believe that the pandemic forced that unnaturally. And I think that is going to be a benefit in the long run because I can tell you that it was something that was forced with my students. I saw them blossom at the end of all of this madness.

Noelle: I'm curious, what you have noticed with the start of this school year because I was talking to another teacher, and she was just like, "Noelle, I don't know what to do. My students are in front of me. We're still wearing masks, but they're in front of me. And sometimes I have to tell them, 'You do know we're in the same room, and I can see you. I see what you're doing. I see you off task.'"

Stacy: Because cameras were off before, and they could do anything. And I will tell you; this is so funny. I'll have to share something that I did. I will say I had the best mentor in the world. I always wanted to be a schoolteacher, but I got started very late. And six months into the school year, I was ready to quit. I was about ready to walk away from my calling if it weren't for this amazing mentor. She called me up one day during the pandemic, and she said, "Stacy, I have something for you, and I want you to try it. I know you're having a hard time getting your kids to turn on their camera and getting your kids to participate. Here's what I want to suggest you do." I watched this thing on TikTok, and there was this teacher who, every time the students would turn on their camera and participate, would stick a sticker on their face.

So, Noelle, I'm not kidding you. I had stickers all over my face, and whatever it took, they were laughing. Students who you would never hear from, half the time they wouldn't even log on, they were logging on to see how many stickers, how many star stickers Ms. Salter would have on her face. And it was just whatever it took to get them to participate. And it's so funny because my first pandemic classroom was my third year teaching. And I literally cried like a baby in our virtual graduation because we did it. We pulled it off. I really don't know how. If you wanted me to give you a play-by-play game book, I don't have one, but we pulled it off. And together, we pulled it off. It was not just me; it was us.

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A revamped curriculum helped Stacy stay organized and provide resources for her classes.

Noelle: If you don't mind me prying, what was causing you to want to quit your first year after six months? Because I, too, counted the days that I could quit without it impacting my license.

Stacy: Well, I will say this. And it's not because this is an HMH podcast that I will say this, but I'll give you a little bit of history. Five years ago, when I started in Henry County Schools, we were under different leadership. We were in the personalized learning model. We did not have any resources. I'll be honest with you. We had nothing. I came in as a brand new teacher, a much older teacher. And so people look at you like, "Why are you here?" I was literally studying the Georgia Standards of Excellence every single night, trying to figure out how to teach. In your bachelor's degree, they really teach you just the basics. They don't give you a teacher playbook. I was studying everything that I could, and I was creating all the materials that I was presenting to my students but making sure that it met the rigor of the standard.

I was exhausted. I was just totally exhausted. We were doing a devotion after school one day, and I came in sobbing, could not stop sobbing. We did not even do our devotion. The teachers just wrapped their arms around me. And this mentor just took me under her wings. And if it were not for her, I would've walked away. And then, a year later, we have new leadership in our district, under new superintendent leadership. And she sits back and watches what's going on, and then two years later, we sign a contract with HMH, and we have so many more materials that we need. And then, I was fortunate enough because of my mentor to get connected at the district level. This is my fourth year now, actually, being a part of helping write the math unit plans for the district with the HMH materials that we have. I was just in the right place at the right time that day with someone who recognized that I was crying out for help, and I needed someone to pick me up or I was going to leave.

Noelle: And every teacher deserves that opportunity to be seen. And not seen in a negative way of that vulnerability but in this way of "Obviously Stacy wants to be here. She's willing to cry in front of us. She didn't just get in her car and leave. She still was coming to the devotion."

Stacy: And it's funny because to this day, she'll say to me, "The one thing I love about Stacy Salter is you're very transparent, and you're very vulnerable." And honestly, that was probably my saving grace that day. I just was crying like a baby, but kudos to her because she had some excellent training. Her passion was the mental health and wellness of the teachers. Although she was a Title 1 math coach, her passion, her calling was [the] mental health and wellness of the teachers. And she picked up on my need for that right away. She is now still one of my very dear friends and is now a mental health and wellness facilitator for Henry County Schools because she followed her calling.

Noelle: Aw, awesome. High fives. Virtual high fives. I've been doing firework, chant, everything feeling it. Now, how do you take that vulnerability and transparency that you're comfortable with and notice the needs of your students? Because I was reading some of the notes and conversation as I was thinking about our conversation and how this would flow. There [are] a lot of students that stand in the background that will not show you anything; you don't know. Sometimes I reflect on the teacher blind spots that I had that I didn't mean to have, and if I could go back and now when I talk to teachers and my friends and even think about myself in situations where I get to still interact in classrooms, is looking in the eyes and seeing and knowing the right question to ask. I'm just curious, in a classroom, when you got to get from behind the scenes, what have you noticed about students' empathy and concern for others? And then what have you noticed about students who were quiet before that you're now trying to bring more out into who they are and letting them see who they are.

Stacy: I just cannot thank you enough for even asking this question. So, I teach fifth grade, and I told my principals, I was like, "Okay, I know that as a principal, you get to put me anywhere you want to, but I'm just telling you that I don't want to be anywhere other than fifth grade." And he chuckled under his breath, but I truly mean that wholeheartedly. And there's a little bit of a story behind that. My daughter, in the fifth grade, was bullied extremely bad. It was just really bad. And I like that you said blind spot because I really truly believe that there is no teacher that is going to intentionally not see what students are feeling or need, but there is a lot going on in the classroom environment. Like right now, I've had 31 kids this year.

It's hard, but this particular teacher, this particular year, really did not see my daughter. She was in her blind spot. My daughter was that child that never caused any problems. She was extremely quiet, very non-social. And at the time back then, her dad and I had already divorced. There was a lot going on at home as well. I was a single mom. It was very traumatic what was happening for her, for our entire family. For me, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I realized very quickly because of my daughter that I always wanted to be an elementary schoolteacher, and I always wanted to teach fifth grade if I was allowed. And for her, she was in the blind spot, and it has changed her life. And in fact, you had to make the difficult decision to let your child be doing virtual school.

I had to make the difficult decision for my daughter, due to mental health issues in the middle of her eighth-grade year, that she would have to quit school altogether. It was a very difficult decision. It was very traumatic for her. I even had a beautiful person share with me, "You have to be more concerned about the health and wellness of your child." That was very hard. Today in my classroom, I am very intently looking for those particular students.

Probably my philosophy for teaching is a famous quote [from] Plato. I truly believe that genius lies within all students and that it's my responsibility as a teacher to help the student find that and then help direct it to them. I am purposely looking for those students who don't stand out in the crowd and really am very intently helping find what it is that amuses their minds because they don't know, and it is our responsibility to help them figure that out. And honestly, if my child, if my daughter had a little bit of that, and again, nothing against the teacher, things would've turned out very differently for her because she is very artistic, but no one really identified that in her in a very young age.

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How do you connect to a student? Sometimes it is as simple as letting them name the class skeleton.

Noelle: Are you noticing more bullying today than even where we were five years ago?

Stacy: Very sadly, yes. And my heart breaks every day. I think that the one thing that the pandemic raised is that students need social and emotional training in the classroom. And when we were in the COVID environment, we were in the pandemic, there was [a] lack of that. When they came back into the classroom, it [was] almost like we were starting with new babies who really did not even know what empathy was. It was almost like students just completely disconnected from human being relationships. And so now the bullying has amped up, sadly. Because students really do not know how to relate to one another anymore, they don't know how to communicate with one another anymore; they certainly lack a lot of empathy. And our school, specifically at Woodland Elementary, we are a PBIS school, and we do social and emotional learning every morning in every classroom.

And it has been very eye-opening at the greater need now, greater than ever. I do applaud our state here in Georgia. They're realizing that there is a greater need for the social and emotional well-being of students. And COVID really just amplified what was already there, and it tucked away what they knew, and now we're having to retrain them all over again and even retrain them [on] what the word empathy means altogether. They just are not empathetic for one another. And when you're not empathetic, and you can't put yourself in someone else's shoes, then you're going to start making fun of them, or you're going to start finding some way to judge. And it has really been very eye-opening of the huge need for the social and emotional well-being of the students even more now than ever. In the classroom now, I really do get to know the whole child, not just the academic side.

Of course, we're always looking at data, but I really do spend a lot of time getting to know that student. In fact, I'll share a funny little story with you. I have a student in my classroom who every day was not showing up in class until 8:30, nine o'clock. They were an hour late. I did a little bit of digging, and I found out that it had been the norm for this student for a couple of years. And the understanding was that in a large family, it was taking mom a long time to get everybody ready. There was one day he was in the back of the room and he was driving me crazy, Noelle. He was driving me crazy. He was doing this thumping and this beating on the top of his desk. It was in rhythm.

Noelle: I don't mean laugh. I don't mean to laugh, but the pencil tapping was my nemesis. I would just have to stop. I'm like, "All right, let's all have an acoustic beat moment, and then let's shut it down."

Stacy: Noelle, I'm telling you, it's one of those things that nobody can appreciate except for a teacher in a classroom.

Noelle: Then you come home and someone's tapping on the table or you're out to dinner and you're like, "Could you just stop?"

Stacy: You just want to turn around, "Can you please ask your child to stop tapping that fork on that table? Because that is driving me crazy." So, the student's in the back of the room. He always shows up late, driving me crazy tapping his pencil. I asked him to come over, and I said, "What is that that you're doing?" And he started tapping, and he wasn't tapping then; he was playing the drums, like fabulous rhythm I have never seen before. So, I was like, "Okay." During my planning time that day, I ran to the music room, and I told our music teacher, I said, "Okay, I need a drum set." I said, "I got to have a drum set. I'm going to take it to the student. And it's going to be his reward. If he can get to school every day on time, then he gets to sit in the back of the room and drive me even more crazy thumping the drums in the afternoon during dismissal because he was a car rider."

First of all, I really wanted to get to the root [of] the problem, which is that whole child thing, find out why he's late every day. Not just assume that it's a habit and everybody just assumes he's just that child that's late every day. I called mom, and I did find out that she didn't realize that school started elementary school as early because she had kids in high school, middle school, and elementary school. He cleared that up and then I had a little task for him. I said, "Okay, here's your reward." First of all, of course, I had to let him play the drums for a while, Noelle. It did drive me absolutely crazy, but I wanted him to get a taste of it.

Noelle: That anticipation of what you can earn.

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From covering her face in stickers to bringing a drum set into her classroom, Stacy uses whatever resources she can to engage her students.

Stacy: Yes. So, I called mom, and we figured that out, and I said, "Okay, I know that you don't drive yourself to school. And I know that you are not responsible for getting yourself here, but maybe you can push your sisters to get ready on time, so you can be at school on time, and here's your reward." And Noelle, I kid you not, he was at school at 7:45 the next day. Now it's not been perfect, but it has definitely been much better than nine o'clock, and every day he's like, "Miss Salter, can I play the drums?" I'm like, "Absolutely."

Noelle: Yes, yes, you can. And let's all come like you are responsible for coming up with five class beats that we can incorporate into routines. I love what you're saying. I remember my first year teaching, I struggled. But my second year teaching, my principal was like, "Okay, I'm really going to focus on Noelle. And we're going to think about classroom management." We talked, and she's like, "I want you to go to this workshop. It's called discipline in the secondary classroom." Randy Sprick was the speaker, and I'm sitting there, and he has this conversation. He's telling us about nonverbal cues and talking about how we need to focus on the positives three times more than any negative. And he used this example. He's like, "For example, tapping. Like a student is tapping on the table, and you're just like, 'Justin, stop tapping,' and you move on. And then you are just like, 'Samantha, that is just so amazing how you're turning in your work, and you're sitting there.'"

And he said, "And here's what's going on in both students' minds." Samantha is just like, "I love how Ms. Morris notices me. She sees me sitting here turning my work in on time. I know that she really likes me." And here's Justin, "Wow, Ms. Morris noticed me tapping. She's really paying attention. She must like me." He's like same exact reaction. Why wouldn't you the next time recognize everything else that Justin's doing? And figure out what the tapping is coming from. Figure out where he's losing engagement or not focused. And what I learned is [that] it didn't help me just have better days; I had an amazing journey with students. Teaching is so personal, but you can't take it personally when those moments-

Stacy: We need a lesson on that. Teachers need a lesson on that.

Noelle: And I remember, I'd go home, I'm like, "I really up until this moment in 1994 thought I was an awesome person until I met these eighth graders. No one told me that a student would actually stand up to me and be like, 'Miss, you make me sick.'" I don't even know how to react to that. No one has ever said that to me.

Stacy: You definitely have to be tough as nails as a teacher but have a heart of gold.

Noelle: I know. And I would be like, "Okay, if I make you sick, then why are you coming back third period and fourth period? Because you only have me second." And that was, again, having that mentor and that person see and help me see that student keeps returning because no matter how many times she told me I made her sick, I came back.

Stacy: You gave her something she was looking for.

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Being vulnerable is one of Stacy's strengths, and has allowed her to connect with both students and teachers.

Noelle: And without that mentor, without someone telling you what you don't see because you're in this flood of emotions, I just shout out to your mentor, I shout out to the work that you're doing. I also agree with your mentor that I would always call you Stacy Salter because it's a brand, like Stacy Salter. You might want to think about that as a brand. But we've got to also do this for each other. When you need to say something or when something hits your heart, don't hold back. Someone might need to hear that in that moment, on that day.

Stacy: It's interesting. And there was a question that you asked, Noelle, that I don't think that I answered. How do I handle me being transparent and vulnerable in this environment as a teacher? And I'll be honest with you. I've really had to think about that a lot because I have learned that my core values are communication and collaboration. I have learned that I'm extremely transparent and I like to share my vulnerabilities. What's happened sometimes is that it's what I call an accidental diminisher because my vulnerability at times gets taken in the wrong way, or people take what I'm feeling out of context. And when I say that, what I mean is that I really do not want you to struggle like I struggled. I really do not want you to want to quit after six months. I really care that you are taking care of yourself.

And if I can, please let me help you. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. But sadly, I am seeing teachers that are not in the right place at the right time, and they're leaving their calling, or they're leaving the profession of teaching. And it is so many reasons, but one of the reasons why is that they did not have someone like you to say, "Hey, can I give you a little bit [of] advice? Can I help you?" And sometimes people don't always take that good-heartedly like I would like, and that's why I call it an accidental diminisher. But I still do it anyway because the best advice that I could give new teachers is to find a mentor that shares similar core values and learn all you can from that teacher.

Noelle: I learned in year five [that] when you get to that moment, you need to scale your learning and your joy. You need to be around more people who are like you and validate you and support [you], but you need at least one or two who challenge you for the next phase of your journey.

Stacy: Yes. And I will tell you that we would get together in a room, and we'd close the door, and we would just collaborate. And we would be very vulnerable. She would always challenge me. To the point where it was very uncomfortable at times, but she always had my best interest at heart. And now I'm so grateful, eternally grateful because this is my fifth year teaching. I have had some really important successes in my young teaching career because I'm taking everything that everybody is throwing at me.

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A mother herself, Stacy knows that a teacher's empathy and understanding can make all the difference in a child's life.

Noelle: I love that you've had so much success. My hope for you is that you continue to have all those same experiences. And I love that you're already looking at how you mentor and keep giving back. I think what I'm hearing from you is that you look for those opportunities so that some people don't have to be like 25, 26, 27 before they're realizing, "I need to make some changes."

Stacy: Yes. And actually, I've had a couple of people say to me that golden question, "What is your five-year plan? Do you want to be in leadership? Maybe you should be in leadership." And I actually just completed an inaugural program in Henry County Schools, the Alliance of Teacher Leaders, who are a group of teachers who have been identified as teachers who are leaders but do not necessarily want to be in a leadership role like an administrator or something. And it is only till just now, Noelle, honestly, and it's going to choke me up just a little bit because I have been asked what's my five-year plan. And honestly, before today, I really didn't know what it was. I am much older. I have done my master's degree. Although I am a lifelong learner, I am constantly in the books. I am constantly reading best practices. It's only up until our conversation today, honestly, that I feel like I know what my five or 10-year plan is.

I want to be in the classroom to help students find that genius within. But most importantly, to help the teachers find their place in the classroom so that they can help guide those students to find their genius within. I have no magic power, nothing, but I definitely have a way of connecting with students. And I feel like now that I have really realized that what I really want to do is be able to empower new teachers so that they don't want to quit this profession. Because students need them now more than ever. And I jokingly say to people, "Although I wanted to be a schoolteacher from the day I was born, I feel like students needed me more now than they did back then." That's my five or 10-year plan. Is to just help other teachers and not make them feel like they're in this alone and they're in this all by themselves.

Noelle: With that, I know we're getting towards the end. And here's my question I ask every teacher. I think every teacher deserves to have their walk-up song. They're walking down the hall. They're about to get in their class; this is going to be the best day. What song is your walk-up song?

Stacy: My teacher walkup song would be Bon Jovi, "Livin’ on a Prayer." I am a child of the eighties.

Noelle: I know. What year did you graduate?

Stacy: Yes. I graduated in 1986 from Mauro High School.

Noelle: I graduated in 1987 from Chris River High School. Do you know what's so cool about that period in the eighties? There was just a bond. Just such tightness. And then it was like we were living The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire. We were a little bit Maverick or Iceman.

Stacy: My middle school years were the best years of my life. I definitely came from a childhood that was difficult, and my middle school peers were my family. I would've rather been at home with them. Like you said, we were listening to music, and we were growing up together, and that was my family. And the music was my family as well. I'm really big into music.

Noelle: Totally. I've just had flashbacks of laying in my bed, waiting for that song to hit the radio, me ready to hit record to capture it. Stacy, this has been lovely. I hope that we stay connected and that we continue on each other's journey. But on behalf of HMH, on behalf of Teachers in America, and most importantly, our audience and our teachers across the country, thank you so much for sharing and being a part of this podcast.

Stacy: Thank you so much. It has truly been an honor and I feel blessed to be here. Thank you very much.

Noelle: If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the Teachers in America podcast, please email us at shaped@hmhco.com. 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 again for listening.

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Stacy Salter Inline 4
In her fifth grade class, Stacy seeks to find the genius in every student.
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