Lori Goodson, Editor
Mary Hammel, Technical Editor
Category: March 2018
Name: Katie Meek
School district: USD 475-Geary County Schools
City/State: Junction City, KS
Class/content area taught: 11th Grade U.S. History/12th Grade U.S. Gov’t
What are you most excited about with your new career? I’m most excited to continue to learn alongside my students! I teach U.S. Government, so a lot of the content is easily tied to current events. Every day something new can change or help deepen our understanding—it’s fun to be able to learn about these events and topics with my students.
What you enjoy most about teaching: I love watching students determine what they’re passionate about. I know full well that for the large majority of my students, history and government aren’t their greatest passions. I love that as a teacher, we can provide learning opportunities and experiences that help students determine what they are passionate about. My hope is that I can help show students what enthusiastic, life-long learning looks like so they can grow and develop and share their passion with others.
In what ways has your school/district supported you? USD 475 really prides itself on professional development—and they haven’t disappointed! We had a full week of New Teacher Orientation, which had so many incredible professional development opportunities focused on supporting new teachers (introduction to AVID strategies, teaching about Safe and Civil Schools, a classroom management-type program, etc.)
What are some specific things you believe KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career? I will forever be grateful for the practicum experiences we had through K-State and the College of Education. Having hands-on experiences with both teachers and students has proven to be such a huge asset. I’ve been able to spend more of my time as a first-year teacher on what I call the “nuts and bolts,” rather than big picture, structural things, because I already had a conceptual grasp on those from practicums. (Through these practicums, I also spent 4 semesters working in USD 475 schools, and fell in love. Because of those experiences, I am now in this district, teaching at a school I love!)
Are there specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you? I come from a large family of educators, from the elementary through post-secondary level. I’ve thought about teaching since I was in kindergarten! What is even more amazing, however, is that 3 of my aunts and uncles and one of my cousins all started their teaching careers with Geary County Schools—now I’m continuing that family tradition!
After graduating from K-State, I took a year away from the high school classroom to work at the Staley School of Leadership Studies at KSU. While I am so grateful to have had that incredible opportunity, I desperately missed interacting with 14-18 year olds every day. After being out of the secondary classroom, I am fully energized and excited to get to work with young adults every single day!
Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers: Go see your students outside the classroom—at band concerts, sporting events, fundraisers, even their workplaces. The excitement on their faces when they realize you are invested in them outside the classroom is well worth the 2 hours you’ll miss of planning/grading time!
It’s March—which means spring rain (maybe?), a much-deserved break (hopefully with a stop or two in the Little Apple), and assessments! While you may be putting in a few extra minutes in your classes reviewing material for the tests, it’s also a good time for you to consider the achievements your students have made—whether they show up on a test score or not.
As your students take the assessments, know that you have done your best. If you’ve kept a journal for reflection, now’s the time to spend a few minutes flipping through the pages and seeing just how far your students—and you as a teacher—have come.
Take time to reflect upon your teaching, how you’ve prepared your students for these assessment and, most importantly, for succeeding in your class and with your content. Flip through your past lesson plans and make note of what works and what didn’t, what needs improvement and what was successful.
As assessment results come in, make use of that data. Use the results to see how your students have progressed and to determine what general areas you may need to spend more time on or approach in a different way.
Do not, however, judge your teaching abilities based on assessment results. Assessments are only part of the picture regarding your students’ achievements. Ideally, testing would be an absolute way to judge your abilities to help students learn. But veteran teachers and administrators know other factors affect how your students do on the tests.
KSU’s COE led the way when 12 of the 32 first-year educators from Kansas (that’s nearly 38 percent!) recently recognized by the Kansas State Department of Education for their outstanding teaching skills through the 2018 Kansas Horizon Award program were products of Bluemont Hall.
The first-year educators were recently honored at a special ceremony during the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN) State Education Conference in Topeka. To be eligible for the award, teachers must have successfully completed their first year of teaching and have performed in such a way as to distinguish themselves as outstanding. Recipients were notified of their selection by Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson.
Here’s a list of our newest award-winning educators:
Taylor Gros, Bluemont Elementary School, Manhattan-Ogden USD 383
Arika Haresnape, Clifton-Clyde High School, Clifton-Clyde USD 224
Mandy Malone, Hutchinson Middle School, Hutchinson USD 308
Kelly Oberheu, Emporia High School, Emporia USD 253
Jessica Steele, Cottonwood Elementary School, Salina USD 305
April Gee, Valley Heights Junior Senior High School, Valley Heights USD 498
Sarah Broddle, Monticello Trails Middle School, De Soto USD 232
Katie Omo, Prairie Ridge Elementary School, De Soto USD 232
Michael Richards, Oxford Middle School, Blue Valley USD 229
Michaela Shandy, Blue River Elementary School, Blue Valley USD 229
Hilary Cosgrove, Freeman Elementary School, Haysville USD 261
Hannah Martin, Maize South Middle School, Maize USD 266
Why don’t you send us a photo of you at work in your classroom! Or, do you have a question about classroom procedures? A suggestion for a topic we should address in Before the Bell? Want to add your name to our mailing list? Or provide a different email for our list?
Early-career teachers, feel free to jump in and offer suggestions to those who are following your career choice!
We’d love to hear from you, so please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go, COE Cats!
We want to help beginning and early career teachers like you thrive in your career! Check out #WeAreEdCats for teaching tips and to stay in touch with the COE! Check out the website at coe.k-state.edu/edcats.
We asked some of your favorite Curriculum and Instruction professors, “What do you think is most enjoyable about teaching this age level/content area?” We think you’ll find their responses provide you with a few smiles…and some motivation to keep up your good work in the classroom.
Dr. Brad Burenheide (Secondary Social Studies)— “Everything. The content, the kids, it is intellectually stimulating and enjoyable.”
Kaylee Myers (Elementary Education)— “The students, of course. They bring a smile to my face, especially each morning when they walk in ready to go and a new day has begun.
Cyndi Kuhn (Technology)— “I love technology, and there are so many options and always a new one. Embrace them.”
Dr. Sherri Martinie (Secondary Math)— “There are so many applications of the content to the real world. There are definitely opportunities to be creative teaching math. It is also very rewarding when students that have struggled with math start to make sense of things and enjoy learning the subject.”
Dr. Tonnie Martinez (Secondary Language Arts)— “I always loved when a student would say, “I hate English class.” I would tell them, ‘If you still don’t like it at the end of the semester, I’ll give you your money back!’ It broke the ice, and sometimes I was shocked when one of the “haters” came in during the last week of school and told me they didn’t want their money back and they liked English now.”
Dr. Tom Vontz (Social Studies)— “The honest and sometimes inaccurate and funny interpretations of the world that come from the mouths of little kids.”
Dr. Vicki Sherbert (Secondary English/Language Arts, Speech/Theatre, Journalism)— “We get to bring exciting literacy experiences to our students. Sharing our enthusiasm about books, authors, poetry, drama, etc. with our students is critical to help them develop their own literate lives.”
Dr. Sally Yahnke (Family and Consumer Sciences)— “I think the most enjoyable part of family and consumer sciences is the fact that the content really allows you to get to know your students, not only in class but through FCCLA. Class content is relevant to the students for the decisions they are making today and the decisions they will be making in the future.”
Dr. Phillip Payne (Music Education)— “The most enjoyable part for me is to see students developing their love and knowledge of music. They learn to take ownership of their musicality and to see that is immensely gratifying.”
Believe it or not, spring AND the final weeks of your school year are within reach! OK–it’s Kansas, so I can’t promise the spring thing, but I CAN promise that you only have a few more weeks for the 2017-18 school year.
We want you to make the most of those final weeks. To help out, here are some of the topics we’re going to be addressing in the April issue:
- The Home Stretch (that sounds good, doesn’t it?)
- Cool Things about Your Secondary Content
- Wrapping Up Your First Year