Thursdays are for teachers and today we feature Nicole Gardner who teaches 3rd grade at Harvey Dunn Elementary in Sioux Falls, SD.
Q: Why did you get into teaching?
I have loved children for as long as I can remember. I began babysitting in the sixth grade, worked in the church nursery, and was a life guard and swim team coach. When I was a senior in high school, I used my study hall to volunteer in the elementary resource room. I worked with the same student for a semester. I loved helping him. Every day, this was the best part of my day. I think this experience solidified my decision to make teaching my career.
Q: How has your year been going?
My year has been great. I have the best job in the world. I get to see 24 kids whom I love, and who make me feel loved, too. It is amazing watching them learn and grow! I love my class, my school, other students in our building, and I work with the most incredible staff. They are my friends and my second family, and each of them cares about all of the students in our school. My students come to school with different needs, but when they come to school, they know they are loved, safe, and that they are important.
Q: How can a church/business/group support you/your classroom/your school? *
There are many ways people can support our classrooms and schools. We need mentors for our many of our students. The commitment isn't huge. It is approximately 45 minutes per week. Mentors come to school and have lunch with the same student each week. After they eat, they visit, play games, read, or finish work. Mentors are there to show our students that someone else thinks they are important and they care.
We always need volunteers to work one-on-one or with small groups of students. It isn't intimidating. We would never ask anyone to do anything they were not comfortable doing. We have many needs to meet, and the more people we have to help meet those needs, the better chance our students are given. We have many students who do not have their basic needs met. Some of our students have negative lunch accounts. People or businesses can help pay off meal balances so students are able to eat hot lunch instead of the cold lunch that they are given that isn't filling, and embarrasses many kids. We could also use donations of snacks. Many students eat snack a few times per day and also ask for one before they go home in case there isn't food for dinner. In order to keep good teachers and to support our students, we need people to get to the polls and vote for legislatures who prioritize education for the students in our state. Your vote matters.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
In some instances, community members don't fully understand the time and dedication teachers give to their students and their profession. Effective teachers spend multiple hours working outside of school hours. If we had a time clock, most teachers would have at least 60 hours per week. Sadly, most teachers also put their families behind their students. Our work and our students get more attention and patience than our own children and families. It isn't because we mean to, it is just the dedication we have to this all encompassing job. Teaching is not a nine month job. Many teachers work all summer to supplement their income. Also teachers are taking classes, planning lessons, developing new units, working on committees, or writing grants to stay current and become better at what they do.
Teaching is not the same as it was even five years ago. The expectations and standards students are supposed to achieve are greater, and the needs of students go far beyond academic. We have students who come from all kinds of abuse and trauma. Some students suffer from mental illness, poverty, and neglect. We have students in foster care, students who have lost a parent or sibling, and students who have incarcerated parents. Our kids have teachers who listen, find help, meet their basic needs, let them know they matter, love them, feed them, and sometimes clothe them. Teachers show their students that they are safe, they have someone whom they can trust and who believes in them. We believe all of our students have gifts and each one can succeed.
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