Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: Early Childhood
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Early Childhood Education and Mathematics
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Fifth year or post-baccalaureate Noyce scholar
Name of Noyce institution:
Current academic or teaching status:
School and school district:
Alexander City Schools, Alexander, AL
I am currently enrolled at Auburn University, focusing on early childhood education and mathematics. I received a master’s in early childhood education from Auburn University in 1995 and a bachelor’s in the same area at the University of South Alabama in 1990. I’ve worked in the Alexander City Schools in Alabama since 1990 as a kindergarten Teacher at Jim Pearson Elementary School. I’ve been part of TEAM-Math at Auburn University since 1995 and have been a math presenter at summer institutes and quarterlies. Since 2008, I’ve been Assistant Coordinator of HIPPY, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. I was an adjunct instructor in the Early Childhood Department at Auburn from 1996-2005. In the 2010-11 school year, I was honored as Teacher of the Year for Jim Pearson Elementary and Teacher of the Year for Alexander City School System.
Why do you want to teach:
There are several factors that influenced me to be a teacher. First of all, I absolutely love to learn and “to teach is to learn.” I believe that love for learning was instilled in me by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Boone. She was patient and never raised her voice; she was soft spoken and gentle. I was an extremely shy child, but wanted to be noticed. She was loving and nurturing and made me feel special. Mrs. Boone made learning fun. We thought she was one of us. She was not the center of the classroom–we were. We learned to read with “Jimmy and Sue,” play a flutophone, square dance, and make zebras with paper mache and paint. She even invited the entire class over for a “spend the night”; there were only 7 of us. While we were at her home, we went bird watching. We looked for birds and drew them with our color pencils. We researched information about the birds from bird books. I say all of this to describe my first experience with school as meaningful and valuable. She empowered us to be readers, appreciate the arts, and to be researchers. Mrs. Boone’s genuine love and acceptance for us built a classroom community of students who loved and accepted each other. Mrs. Boone inspired me to provide that same experience for all young children. Not all of my school experiences were as gratifying. As I got older I didn’t struggle in school, but I didn’t excel either. School became rigid programs with worksheets and workbooks. I remember one year feeling humiliated not being in the bluebird reading group with my best friend. I always fell in the middle. My teachers would say, “she is not performing up to full potential.” There were some other teachers along the way who were encouraging, but it was always short lived. No longer was school meaningful and valuable to me, and this is the way it was until I graduated from high school, surprisingly with an advanced degree. The next 10 years were very busy years. I married and had 3 girls. I volunteered at their school and then worked as a paraprofessional. As I worked with second grade students who were struggling readers, I helped them make connections by bringing in books about their favorite topics. If we were reading “Blueberries for Sal,” we made blueberry muffins. The students were motivated to succeed and achieved success. We worked hard and had fun. The teachers and administrator who I worked with praised my work and said I shouldn’t stop here. They encouraged me to go to school and become a teacher. I have never ever regretted it. Teaching gives me the opportunity do all of the things that Mrs. Boone instilled in me that first year of school, to make learning meaningful and valuable. What a privilege it is to be on this side of the classroom and see faces light up and confidence grow in students as we do things like “fly to Australia.” Making learning come to life for my students is my ultimate goal.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
As a teacher, I believe it is my duty to teach my students citizenship and democracy. After all, they are the future leaders of our community. I accomplished this along with my colleagues through thematic units on “The International Market” and “Operation Downtown.” The “International Market” incorporated studies of foreign countries, the people and communities. “Operation Downtown” focused on local businesses and our own community. These themes were a means to integrate the curriculum in an authentic learning environment. In this way, we not only taught the core academic curriculum in a meaningful way, we also developed a community of learners that discovered what “being a good citizen” was about. Local businesses partnered with us in these studies, helping students make connections with the real world, our community. The studies provided opportunities to vote and develop positive work ethics and skills that promote peaceful negotiation and cooperation. We learned that strong communities are people who care about each other and what is best for the community as a whole. We learned that strong communities are the backbone of America and everywhere around the world
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
I believe one of my greatest contributions in education has been working as a Teacher Leader with TEAM-math and Auburn University. TEAM-math, endorsed by the National Science Foundation, offered me the opportunity to learn as much as I could about most effective teaching practices with proven results. Being a Teacher Leader has empowered me as an early childhood educator to provide authentic and life-long learning experiences through developmentally appropriate practices. Through rigorous training, Teacher Leaders become well-informed in math research and achievement. Along with other teacher leaders, we established a professional learning community emphasizing collaboration among peer teachers and East Alabama schools. We have impacted the learning of hundreds of students by providing adequate support for teachers and ultimately increasing student achievement. Students need to know more than mathematical facts and procedures; they need to be able to apply their knowledge to solve problems in mathematics and in real life. I helped create and implement several collaborative structures to ensure consistency in curriculum, instruction, and assessment in math. Each collaborative structure provides an opportunity for my colleagues and me to plan and reflect. These structures consist of quarterly meetings, summer institutes, monthly professional development, and on-going training for leaders. We share our expertise and provide feedback with one another so that students benefit and we become better teachers.