In this new 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?
Teaching was not my first choice. I wanted to work with children but as a police officer in the communities I served. I ended up teaching as a result of my children being born at 24 weeks. Putting family first, I left the police department and looked for a job that worked better for my schedule and family. Knowing I wanted to work with children, I took a paraprofessional position and went back to school to get certified in special education. I then moved on to be a special education teacher, counselor, assistant principal and Chief Academic Officer.
What was your first teaching experience like? What did it teach you?
My first teaching assignment was a self-contained behavior disorders class. I taught four core classes and my students stayed with me all day. To be honest, I hated it! My mother raised me differently than what I thought my students had been raised like, based on how they acted in school, and I came to school anticipating some sort of conflict or push back from my students each day. They seemed to lack the maturity and manners I had at that age. Respect was extremely difficult for me to obtain. Needless to say, I didn’t understand at the time that I had to first start by building trust with my students. I was not ready to deal with the types of behavior I had and I still thought like a police officer. I really had a “you do as I say” mentality and did little explaining because I didn’t feel that I should have to as an adult.
I wish I had more classroom management training and a mentor teacher during my first year. I think about coming into my class for the first day and not really knowing any teachers or students and how lost I felt. That feeling carried over for most of the first semester until the lead teacher for special education called me into a parent meeting to discuss a student issue. It wasn’t until that interaction that I began to get the support I needed to support my students.
What is your unique perspective when working with teachers, coaches, or principals?
One thing I don’t do now is assume teachers know everything I’m about to tell them. I always start off trying to learn something about them before assessing them. I also apply this to my first interactions with the coaches I train – instead of going right into training them, I try to get to know them first. I ask them about their families and where they’re from, and most importantly, why they are an educator.
What are you an ‘expert’ in besides CT3’s work?
I would like to think I am a bit of an expert in the school turn around process, and I work hard on building relationships as a foundation to that work. The relationship building piece starts prior to meeting with the principal or culture team face to face. I try to make some type of contact as soon as I find out support is needed to establish lines of communication and make myself available. I believe putting in time on the front in to ensure the client is comfortable and feels ready for coaching is just as important as supporting these educators in person.
What, in your opinion, is the most important aspect of school in order to best serve students?
Build trusting relationships with students first, teachers and parents! Building trust in my building started with letters and phone calls home before the first day of school. Communication to students, parents and teachers were a must in order to start the relationship building process and establish the lines of communication. As a principal, I always started my day off with some type of meet and greet or event on the school’s lawn and invited the community in to learn more about what would be happening at the school that year. In addition, throughout the year, I kept my students, parents and teachers informed. We used the TV monitors, e-mail, robo calls and letters keep the flow of information going.
What is your best advice for a first year teacher?
My best advice for a first year teacher is to remain humble in all you do and seek help whenever needed. Also, No-Nonsense Nurturer® and Real Time Teacher Coaching® have pushed me to continue to grow and better serve those that serve children. It is the one thing I wish I had as a first year teacher before graduating college.
What’s been your proudest moment working with educators?
My proudest moment has been seeing my coaches in Tulsa Public Schools (Sherri Medina and Michelle Kingsley) take the work and continue it in their buildings through coaching and professional development they created. During their training, we created anchor charts for the No-Nonsense Nurturer four-step model and for coaching protocols. They took that work and created professional development sessions for their teachers that they used throughout their schools.
Check out CT3 Education programs such as No-Nonsense Nurturer, Real Time Teacher Coaching, and Real Time Leadership Coaching to find out more about Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders, and building relationships with students and their families.