It was Amanda’s love of working with children that led her down the path of education, but it was her love of reading—and her desire to pass that love on to future generations—that motivated her to teach English language arts (ELA) at the elementary level. While the texts themselves are a joy to share, the real delight for Amanda comes from hearing students’ reactions to the stories. With new students every year bringing different life experiences and viewpoints, a unique and lively discussion is always in store. Every year, the most rewarding experience for Amanda is watching her students develop and mature into individuals who are ready for the next step; when the students give their best effort and overcome challenges to achieve their goals, they inspire her as much as she inspires them.

What do you enjoy about the grade/subjects you teach?
I teach 5th grade ELA. I love to read and want to pass along that love to my students. Also, I love hearing students’ thoughts about the texts that we read. They often have very unique thoughts and perspectives about a topic or situation. I enjoy seeing life through their perspectives. Each year we have new students with different experiences and viewpoints. I love seeing them bring all of their experiences into what we are learning academically.

What keeps you going on your more challenging days in the classroom?
Watching students show up each day and give their all in challenging content is one of the things that motivates me. I want to give students all they need to be successful in life. I have a limited amount of time with my students each year. I want to make that time count and help them as much as I possibly can. Each year there are students who work hard day in and day out. Watching them persevere through difficult content is part of what keeps me going. The students show up and give it their all, which motivates me to keep going. I love seeing students show grit and determination. Nothing makes me more proud or inspires me more than seeing a student not give up!

Why should one consider becoming a teacher?
Being a teacher is extremely rewarding. I get to watch my students develop and mature into independent individuals with their own interests, strengths, and beliefs. I enjoy helping them learn and develop the tools they need to succeed in life. I love seeing their personalities and watching them interact with their peers. I have learned a great deal from my students. They are an inspiration to me as I watch them grow and overcome adversities.

Complete this sentence: Teachers are heroes because…
Teachers are heroes because they love, care, and work tirelessly to show up for their students on a daily basis regardless of the many challenges.

After a wonderful elementary school experience of her own, Diedre became a lifelong learner. But now that she’s teaching her own students, she’s not interested in doing things the same old way. Rather than simply reading her lessons from textbooks, Diedre thrives when she and her students can engage more fully in the assignments by conducting experiments, creating models, and learning in other interactive ways. Between teaching three subjects—math, science, and social studies—Diedre has her hands full, but she’s motivated by seeing her students overcome challenges and make connections in their work. Whether it’s figuring out a mathematical formula, studying the results of an experiment, or drawing parallels between our past to the present, Diedre loves passing knowledge along to her students—and even learning a thing or two from her own lessons.

What do you enjoy about the grade/subjects you teach?
I teach three discrete subjects: math, science, and social studies. I have always loved learning and teaching math. I love to see my students make connections between something I’ve introduced and material they learned in a lower grade. I want them to leave the math class without any phobias/fears because they know that math just makes sense.

I enjoy social studies because I like to know why things happen. It’s like the connections that we make in math. You see why our government, etc. operates in the manner it does because of choices people made hundreds of years ago.

Science is a new topic of interest for me. The thing I enjoy most about the way I teach it versus the way I learned it is the hands-on aspect. When I was a student, we learned everything from books, which wasn’t engaging. As a teacher, my students and I conduct experiments and create models, then explain the scientific concept behind them. It’s fun to see their excitement and knowledge.

What keeps you going on your more challenging days in the classroom?
The things that make me keep going on more challenging days are my students’ needs, my colleagues’ trust, and my interest in the content I teach. I know that each person in our building has an important role to play in educating and preparing our students for the next level and for their lives beyond the classroom. I depend on them to do their parts, and I feel that I need to do my part to the best of my ability. I am also personally interested in the subjects I teach. I learn something new every time I cover a topic and I look forward to that.

Has there ever been a time you were especially proud of a student’s accomplishments?
One of my students had developmental and academic delays. He did not like to do math. He would cry every day in the classroom. Despite that, the instructional support teacher and I were able to help him make the equivalent of two instructional years of growth during the time he was in my classroom. His mother visited us after he was in middle school and told us how she was so grateful for the care, time, and attention we had taken with her student. It was gratifying to hear that something I did had so much impact.

What do you feel makes a great teacher?
I think great teachers must be able to build strong relationships with students and adults. Students who are respected are able to take the risks and chances that are necessary to learn and grow.

Complete this sentence: Teachers are heroes because…
Teachers are heroes because they work hard to prepare students to be contributing members of society without expecting praise and accolades. They do it because they believe they make a difference.