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In the Classroom: Mac Phrommany

Mac Phrommany, kneeling, center, joins his students for some escape room fun.

Name: Mac Phrommany

School district: USD 383 Manhattan -Ogden

City/State: Manhattan, KS

Class/content area taught:Debate, Forensics, ELA 11 – American Literature

What you are most excited about with your new career: I am looking forward to, and have enjoyed, being able to fully dedicate myself to serving my community.

What you enjoy most about teaching: I am enjoying seeing students be rewarded for investing in their passions. In coaching and teaching, I firmly believe any student can accomplish great things should they choose to do so. I am simply a catalyst for their ambitions. I tell my students, lacking passion bothers me more than anything else. If we are to do anything in our lives, we must do it with passion.

His debaters gather for a photo after competing at Shawnee Heights.

Ways your school/district has supported you: The single greatest form of support that my school district has given me is their trust. I do not have to wade through a world of bureaucracy and roadblocks to pursue ideas in my classroom. In turn, ideas become a reality very quickly. This reduction in friction allows me to experiment, evaluate, and revise very quickly.

Ways KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career: Getting me into a classroom regularly and bringing in teachers from the area were two particularly beneficial parts of my KSU College of Ed experience. These two elements of my college experience are what got me my current job at Manhattan High. To elaborate: During my Sophomore year, I attended a KNEA hosted Q&A. Speaking on one of the night’s panels was James Neff. He recommended I get in touch with Kristal Kleiner because of my interest in Debate, Forensics, and English. After that night, I began a regular correspondence with Kristal, requesting her mentorship and inquiring about opportunities to work with her. After a year and a half of such correspondence, I did my practicum with Kristal. After student teaching, Kristal reached out to me, saying she would be stepping down from her current position. She continued by explaining she wanted to groom me to take her job. Eventually, I did. The person I wanted to mentor me (Kristal Kleiner), and the man who got me in touch with her (James Neff), are now my colleagues.

Specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you: My mother always told me to “go be useful.” While this was typically said with the hope I would clean the house, today it means so much more. “Go be useful” means a person’s value is derived from what they offer the world. Today, I choose to be “useful” by serving my community as a teacher.

Mr. Phrommany, left, prepares his room.

While the values of service have always been a part of my upbringing, the support of my teaching ambitions were not. Teaching English and Coaching Speech and Debate were distant possibilities for most of my life. Asian-Americans and children of immigrants as a whole, are not often encouraged to pursue careers in teaching. The appeals of the American dream push children of immigrants to pursue careers with stronger financial incentives. Moreover, children of non-native English speakers do not often pursue teaching English. My upbringing, in some respects, kept me on a pathway diametrically opposing that of a high school teacher.

For these reasons, I needed to teach. My favorite high school teacher, Ms. Boan, told me there is a power in being guided by someone that looks like you. I reminisced on this fact, and realized that I had never had a teacher that looked like me. This experience, for reasons noted earlier, is not uncommon.

I teach because I never saw anyone like me when I was a student. I can’t say that I am the “perfect fit,” but that makes it more important that I am here today.

The class bulletin board is filled with photos and news clippings.

Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers: For the students who are graduating in their early to mid 20s: First, capitalize on the fact that you are young. I look young and I am young. Adopting a persona would be disingenuous and is a poor basis for developing relationships with colleagues and students. Second, actively pursue self discovery. This is especially beneficial in your time prior to becoming a full fledged teacher. The unique amalgamation of experiences you have had in your life create a unique teaching style. It is a disservice to your students if you cannot give them the unique classroom experience that only a person with your life history can provide. Know who you are so that you can be who you are.

Other thoughts: A huge thank you to all of my friends and mentors in K-State’s College of Ed and the English Department. Your passion, flexibility, and knowledge will always be appreciated.

Take time to reflect on the differences you’ve made in your students’ lives

goodbye-classYou are about to say goodbye to your first class. You can’t decide if you want to cry…or smile. That’s OK – it’s probably going to be a little of both.

It’s different at the various grade levels. Some teachers may see their first class leaving the building for another school; some may see their first class graduating from the school district and moving on to other stages of their lives.

Whatever the situation, you’ll probably find that you think back to your first year for many school years to come. They will be the group that, for better and for worse, helped you complete your first year in an extremely important career.

Take a few minutes, before everyone dashes out your classroom door, to thank them. While you’ve been the teacher, they have taught you many things, as well.

Some of your professors share their first-year experiences

memoriesWe found some of your former Curriculum and Instruction professors and asked them, “As a classroom teacher, what’s your favorite memory from your first year of teaching?” And here are some of their responses.

Dr. Todd Goodson (Secondary English, Speech/Theatre, Journalism) — “My first year was at a very small country school with grades 7-12. The first week I was there, the superintendent came in carrying a Missouri driver’s manual. He explained that I would need to drive the district’s small bus to take students to speech contests, and to do that, I would need a special license. He told me to read through the manual a little bit, and he would come back and watch my classes for me that afternoon while I went to the county seat to take the exam. I’m not sure what would be more intimidating for a new teacher—having the superintendent as a substitute during the first month of teaching, trying to quickly read a book and take a test over it and thinking about how embarrassing it would be to fail, or the sudden discovery the job also included driving buses loaded with students. As it turned out, the test part was a non-issue. I already had a Missouri Chauffeur’s License! Driving high school students to contests never stopped being terrifying.”

Dr. Lori Levin (Literacy) — “I did a Flat Stanley project based on the Flat Stanley books, and my kids sent little flat paper versions of themselves to friends and family around the country and asked for photos or artifacts of the flat child out and about in the community so we could learn about new places. When an envelope would come back to school in the mail, it was the most exciting thing to see what was inside. Teachers still do Flat Stanley units today – it never gets old!”

Dr. Brad Burenheide (Secondary Social Studies) — “Being told I was being brought back for year 2!”

Cyndi Kuhn (Technology) — “OH my, when I think about my first year of teaching, I kinda hope no one remembers my name, I think I might have been the only one learning that year. But boy did I learn a ton.”  

Dr. Sherri Martinie (Secondary Math) — “I remember doing a lot of great projects, including skits and songs. It was a ton of work, but so much fun!”

Kaylee Myers (Elementary Education) — “How much I learned and grew from my kindergartners. Everyday they had something clever or cute that one of them told me. I should’ve written all of those down then!”

Dr. Tom Vontz (Secondary Social Studies) — “Watching students turn in their final exam on the last day of the semester. The final exam was one essay question, yet most of the students used the entire 90 minutes to write out their answer. I was proud of what we accomplished and how much they had learned – not just about history, but about hard work, study skills, organization of ideas, historical thinking, and a host of other things.”

Dr. Vicki Sherbert (Secondary English/Language Arts, Speech/Theatre, Journalism) — “During Parent/Teacher Conferences in October, a parent told me that her daughter loved my class. She said that she and her husband were always excited when their children were placed in a first-year teacher’s classroom because what new teachers may lack in experience, they make up for with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Her words encouraged and gave me confidence.”

Dr. Tonnie Martinez (Secondary English/Language Arts) — “I was 21 and they were 18—I dressed like an old woman and stayed behind my podium.”

Dr. Phillip Payne (Music Education) — “I would say the resilience of my band as we returned home from Indianapolis after 1/3 of the band got food poisoning. This tested a lot of what I had learned in school. Seeing the connection between parents, community, and administration was invaluable and really allowed me to see the profession from beyond the walls of my classroom.”

Spend some time reflecting…and getting ready for NEXT year

eye-on-augustDespite what some say, teachers have plenty of things to do through the summer–whether it’s teaching summer school to help students catch up on skills or student-free activities such as attending workshops or classes. Here are just a few suggestions to help you make the most of those not-so-lazy, hazy days of summer!

  • Be looking for ways to improve your lessons. If you’re teaching the same course next fall, spend some time flipping through your lesson plans. Hopefully, you’ve made some notes and done some reflecting on what worked and didn’t work. Where can you add a new element – a brief video or music clip? How can you enliven your lessons to get your students excited? What activities did they seem to like the most AND learn the most? Revise, revise, revise!
  • Look for new resources. The Internet provides an endless amount of options for you, including many that are teacher-tried and trusted. But don’t overwhelm yourself; be selective by focusing on pumping up one particular unit for next year’s class.
  • Team up with a colleague (as near as a friend who teaches down the hall to as far away as across the nation, thanks to the Internet). It’ll make planning and revising much more enjoyable!
  • Find a workshop or course to take that addresses an area in which you’d like to become a stronger teacher…classroom management, special education needs, technology, etc.

We’re always eager to hear from you!

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What’s up?

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? At the very least, just email and say hi!

And thanks to all of those who have emailed! We love the updates!

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 lagoodson@k-state.edu.

Go, COE Cats!