In this blog series, we are interviewing members of the CT3 team about their background in education as well as the expertise that they each bring to their work with educators across the country.
Why did you want to become an educator?
I wanted to be an educator because many of the people who inspired me were educators. First and foremost, my grandmother was an educator and some of my most influential mentors were educators. Ironically, all of them were also english teachers – Ms. Murphy in 3rd Grade, Ms. Grier in 7th grade, Ms. Johnson in 8th Grade, Ms. Butler in 9th. These teachers not only sparked my love for the subject but they helped me set goals and were invested in me far beyond my academics. Thanks to them, I developed a love for literature at an early age. I simply wanted to share my passion with my students.
Tell us about your background in education. What was your first teaching experience like? What did it teach you?
I received my B.A in English from Georgia State University. I hold a M.Ed and a PhD in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Georgia. I taught secondary education for six years and served as principal of Georgia’s first single gender public charter school.
My first teaching experience was like being in a corn maze. There were times where I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going only to turn a corner and realize that I was stuck. I loved my kids but struggled to get to know them and their community. While I grew up less then 10 miles from my first school, my students and I lived very different lives. Teaching in a Title 1 school district that was 99% economically disadvantaged presented a series of challenges that college didn’t prepare me for. It was the first time that I became acutely aware of systemic injustices that I had only previously read about. I struggled to build authentic relationships with students and always felt like the challenges my students faced were insurmountable. My first year taught me that the more effort I put into planning my lessons and building relationships, the more my students gave in return.
Do you have any regrets from your first year of teaching that you wish you could do over? Why or why not?
I regret not being intentional about building relationships with all of my students. During my first year, I fell into the trap of accepting the philosophy that most of my students would be successful, but not all of my students. My investment or lack of investment directly correlated to what my students gave me in return. If I could go back and do it again, I would be relentless in my pursuit of building relationships with all of my kids and not just some of them. I would look beyond their circumstances and see my student’s resiliency instead.
What is your unique perspective when working with principals?
When I work with principals, I often think about the type of leader I was and the type of leader I wanted to be. Much like your first year teaching, leadership is a journey and I am often reflective about my mistakes and my successes. I strive to ensure that every principal I work with takes the time to envision their leadership prototype and define success for themselves. I followed some great leaders during my principalship, but it wasn’t until I defined success for myself that I truly was able to meet the needs of my students and staff.
What are you an ‘expert’ in besides CT3’s work?
Ha! Expert, there is always so much to learn. Teacher morale is one area that I am always researching. Helping principals motivate and inspire their teachers is a key part of my life’s work. Inspired teachers ignite a love of learning in their students.
What in your opinion is the most important aspect of school in order to best serve students?
The most important aspect of a school is the abstract concept of infinite possibilities. If, as educators, we commit to seeing each student that walks into our building for their infinite potential, that alone becomes a driving force for excellence. When we teach and lead from a place that recognizes that our lives depend on our students’ success, change isn’t just possible, its necessary. When we embrace the idea that every one of our students has the potential to cure cancer, be the next supreme court justice, create new jobs, and solve our nations greatest problems, it suddenly hits you that you are not just helping students write their narratives but you’re actually shaping your own. One of my favorite quotes by Benjamin E. Mays is, “Every man and woman was put on this earth to do something unique and distinct and if he or she doesn’t do it… It will never get done.” I’d like to believe that as educators, it is our job to make sure that every student leaves our building inspired and equipped to do the unique and distinct thing he or she was put on this planet to do. Simply because our life depends on it.
What is your best advice for a first year teacher?
Advice for a first year teacher: Building real relationships with your students is a year long process. It is more than a week’s worth of icebreakers. Allow your students to see themselves in your classroom and their content and you will always get more from your students.
If you could only tell educators ONE thing about CT3’s work, what would it be?
No-Nonsense Nurturer® and Real Time Teacher Coaching® unlocks for many and affirms for others the cornerstones of great teaching. It isn’t a panacea for all things classroom management. At the core of No-Nonsense Nurturer and Real Time Teacher Coaching is building relationships with your students. Without that, nothing else matters.
What’s been your proudest moment working with educators?
When I entered the consulting world, I was afraid that I would miss working with students. Working at CT3 has allowed me to continue to foster nurturing relationships in multiple communities. When I walk into a building and a student greets me by name, embraces me with a hug or simply wants to know if I watched the Falcons play last Sunday, I’m reminded of the impact of a single interaction and the power of one.
Click here to read more about Joy and our CT3 team.