Luckiest person in the world

I am a mother of twins, a grandmother of twins, a wife of 42 years and a teacher of almost 40 years. In fact, I don’t think teaching is any longer my career; it’s who I am. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world. I have the best job. I have survived two cancers so every day is a second chance for me. I have amazing children. I have amazing grandchildren. I have a husband who has supported me all the way through everything. I have students who still run across malls to say ‘hi’ and keep in touch over all the years. You never know when students come in every year what you’re getting. It’s like every one of them is a different little package and it’s my job to open that package. Basically, what you really need to do is give somebody a chance to let them know you and you know them and then the magic is there. That’s all you have to do.

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Teaching first grade

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The coolest thing about teaching first-grade is all of the cool kids I have had throughout the years. It’s surpassed my expectations, and it’s been very different than what I thought when I first started. I definitely felt called to be a teacher. I have different experiences every day. It’s the students that touch my heart the most. It’s more than I could have ever imagined. And seeing the little guys come back and visit me, talk to me and give me hugs  ̶  I love it!

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Your work is your signature

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I started with Virginia Beach City Public Schools in 1992 as the director of vocational education. One of the most inspiring comments I had from a student was an apprentice I hired to run some ducting and air conditioning system into a house I built. He was a graduate and I remember saying to him, “This is some of the finest work I’ve ever seen. I’m just amazed.” He said, “Well, my teacher taught me that my work is my signature. That’s what I’m presenting to you today.” Still to this day, it works magnificently!

You want people who have that same type of forethought that their work is their signature. Whether it’s a teacher, a principal, a director, a superintendent or an electrician, a carpenter, an auto mechanic, a nurse, a doctor, it doesn’t matter. If we can instill that in people, we’re going to be a better country; we’re going to be a better city.

We’ve been able to break down barriers. You tell me that a high school student can’t do this. That’s what floats our boat, when we can get something a high school student can do and can get a credential; can work with a robot; can build unimaginable things that we had no idea that a high school mind could do. You just turn them loose on 3D printers and different things, and now we’re cascading that line of thought down. We didn’t think elementary kids could blossom on a 3D printer. Well, guess what? They are. So those are some lessons we’ve learned over time that feed the minds and brains of these kids who want to succeed. Male, female, ethnicity ̶ doesn’t matter. We say: Let’s create the future. That’s what we’re trying to do.

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I love people

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I started with Virginia Beach City Public Schools as a substitute. From there I was hired as an assistant, and then I moved to the office. I did have the opportunity to be a long-term sub for a fourth-grade class, which I enjoyed, and then I came here. I’ve been here at North Landing for 16 or 17 years. I love my job. I am a social person. I love people. I think I’m in the right position. Even with my job, I have the opportunity to do outside things. I dance at my church. I do a dance ministry for women 35 and up. My oldest member is 72. Right now we’re in the process of preparing for a play. Even though it is a dance ministry, it’s also helping people  ̶ helping others find out who they are, what they like to do; helping them overcome some things in their lives that they’ve gone through.

I love working with people. I have a degree in psychology with a minor in human services counseling. I’m going to pursue something in that later, but I think what I do involves that – psychology and working with people. I love life. I love the things that make up life. I love helping people.

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Getting to know my students

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What inspires me is knowing that when I greet the students I get to hear their thoughts and opinions. I’m really excited about what they have to say on any topic, whether it be related or about what’s going on in their outside world and how we can connect the two. It’s my passion because it allows me to see where the students are coming from so we can find something in common. Because when I know them, I can talk about it and it shows them that I know what they’re talking about. I can relate to them and they get really excited. So that’s really interesting to see in terms of getting to know the students.

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I’ve always been so happy doing ballet

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I have been dancing ballet since I was three, and right now I’m at Ballet Virginia International. We’re doing “The Nutcracker” at the Sandler Center. This my 10th year. This year my main roles are Russian lead and Marzipan lead, and then I do the normal snow, flowers and soldier.

It’s cool to have a professional experience because not many people get that. Normally you have to wait until you’re a professional dancer to go on stage and perform in front of hundreds of people. I think it’s helped me mature faster than most people my age. I’ve always been so happy doing it. I’ve always been a shy person, but I’ve never had a problem performing in front of so many people. I think it has helped boost my self esteem. I’m definitely a different person because of it.

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Climbing to New Heights

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Right now I feel like the luckiest principal in the world to have gotten Salem Elementary School. This is an amazing group of teachers, amazing group of students and amazing community, where there is really good work going on. There is a lot of really focused instruction that helps our kids succeed. This year, coming in brand new and thinking about where we go from here, the assistant principal and I put our heads together and came up with this “Climbing to New Heights” theme. Things are good. We just want to go the next step. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re taking what we’re doing and going higher. We’re trying to stretch our kids. Can we push our pass-advanced rate? Can we push the critical thinking, the creative thinking, the problem solving and give our kids opportunities to continue to go higher and to build new things? Staff has really bought into that and our teachers are willing to take risks, which is scary when you’ve got a new principal. Both Mrs. Quinn and I have come in new and we’re saying, “It’s safe. Take a risk.” For example, we’ve been looking at our digital transformation and we want people to try new technologies and take risks. We’re calling it our “Climbing to New Heights Innovation Challenge,” and we’ve challenged every teacher to, between now and winter break, look at some way they can look at technology differently to solve a problem, to meet a student’s need, to explore something that might engage students, to try something new and to feel safe doing it. It hasn’t been long and our teachers are already sharing what they’ve done and what worked well.

We all grow from that kind of trying-something-new, seeing-how-it-impacts-kids kind of experiment. That’s how we all grow as educators. It’s asking ourselves, “How are we going to use technology to support instruction, make learning new and relevant, and reach students in a way we couldn’t reach them otherwise?”

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