Why did you become a teacher?
I was heavily influenced by my biology teacher my freshman year of high school. On the first day of school, he pulled out a human heart encased in wax. He began to tell a story of the young man whose life was cut short … how this heart allowed him to live for as long as he did. … spoke of it being the “engine” that allowed him to be … and how we could still learn from this young man even though he was now gone. That was over thirty-seven years ago, and I remember it vividly.
What is the biggest difference you see in the classroom from when you started to now.
Technology. All first-year teachers were scrambling for something, anything to do in the classroom back in the early nineties. The only thing that was in my room (besides desks and a chalkboard) was a stack of 150 7th grade language arts texts books. Teachers today can be overwhelmed by the amount of resources that they have at their fingertips.
Do you feel you and your communities schools get enough financial support from state and local governments?
No. We are a one-to-one school district. Every student has been given an iPad that they may use for the entire year. This was funded by a grant, and I am very clear that schools/districts have different “pots” to pull from as far as funding, but our pay is absolutely ridiculous, and this is not a livable wage. Districts need to have a better understanding of the needs of their employees, and how to retain qualified teachers.
What is your biggest obstacle as a teacher?
Besides our salary? Parents and parenting. Students and behaviors. Parents are very quick to point the finger at the teacher when a child is not being successful. On the flip-side, some parents are so incredibly uninvolved and disinterested that they have no business having children in the first place. Grades are posted online and are updated at basically the speed of light. Parents can access this information 24/7 yet here we are in April, and I just had a parent say that they have not seen a progress report or report card all year. That is entirely on them. I have noticed, especially in the past five years or so, that students are unable to maintain any amount of silence. They are so captivated by the technology at their fingertips that they need to make noise (humming, tapping, pounding, etc.) if there is no noise. I am seeing this in the younger teachers as well, and it … is … bizarre.
What is the number one thing you see as a way to improve education in this country?
Funding. Arizona is reaching critical mass. My district currently has 31 unfilled positions and young teachers are leaving in droves. The quality of the teachers and leadership is diminished well beyond the point of students receiving any quality education. Maybe that is a little harsh. Many teachers (young and old) are doing wonderful things with their kids. Having said that, more and more I am seeing that anyone with an associates degree can and will be hired on the spot. Many of these individuals have no business being in the classroom. My larger classes range from thirty-seven to forty-three students per class. Approximately 866 Arizona teachers have already quit this year (2017-2018), and there are nearly 2,000 vacant positions statewide.