At a young age I decided I wanted to become a teacher and ever since then I have been on an educational journey which has prepared me for my professional career. This journey has been full of experiences which were positive, challenging, and rewarding. My time spent as an undergraduate student in the Teacher Education Program at Benedictine University assured me that I chose the right profession and inspired me to strive for success. During my preclinical and student teaching experiences, I received opportunities to plan and teach scaffolded and differentiated lessons, use assessment to plan for instruction, incorporate technology into my instruction, and effectively communicate with students, parents and other professionals. Throughout these experiences, I continually used self-reflection to monitor my progress and improve my abilities as an educator. With these learning experiences under my belt, I am confident I have the ability to be a successful teacher and make a positive impact on my students’ lives.
I am the youngest of three children. My older brother, Matthew, is twenty-seven years old and works as a fireman for the city of Chicago. My eldest sister, Sarah, is thirty years old and was born with Down syndrome. Growing up, I knew my sister was different but always included her into all sorts of activities that were taking place. Sarah was the first child with a disability to be included into the Lombard, District 44 school system. Sarah made many gains throughout her journey and this, I believe, was because she was treated as any other student. Sarah’s achievements have inspired me to teach to the best of my ability and understand that people who have disabilities do not always like to be treated differently, but still need various accommodations. Sarah, Matthew and I were able to attend the same grade school which was extremely rare for this time in education.
I attended Hammerschmidt Elementary school in Lombard, District 44. While in third grade I realized the type of teacher I wanted to become. Mrs. Giancanna was, and still is, a person who has also inspired me in this journey. I can remember the games, activities, projects, reading groups, encouragement and sense of togetherness she incorporated into her everyday teaching. Mrs. Giancanna’s demeanor was something I will always remember. Her confidence, patience, and understanding were among the qualities I captured from her teaching style.
Confidence, patience, and understanding are amongst the most important qualities every educator should possess. My preclinical experiences helped me develop confidence during instruction in the classroom and patience with my students and myself. Looking back on the first lessons I taught, I realize I was not certain in regards to my delivery. There were times when students asked questions I couldn’t answer, when I forgot crucial steps of instructional delivery, and when I felt foolish because I stuttered on a word or phrase in front of the class. But as I spent more time in the classroom, I started to feel comfortable with my surroundings and abilities. Both my preclinical and student teaching journals allowed me to reflect on the mistakes I made, devise plans to improve, and recognize the progress I made as a teacher. In my journals, I consistently asked, “what went right, what went wrong, and what can I do to improve?” Keeping a daily journal taught me the importance of reflection in order to achieve professional growth and success.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my student teaching experience was that education is not a job you can do alone. There absolutely must be collaboration within this profession, or else you will not succeed. Teachers need to work closely with their colleagues, administrators, and parents if they want to provide their students with the best possible education. Working alongside my cooperating teacher allowed me to observe collaboration in action and learn how to use collaboration to improve instruction. I attended all district institute days, district-wide grade-level meetings, school faculty meetings, grade-level team meetings, and parent-teacher conferences with my cooperating teacher. Those first-hand experiences taught me the importance of asking questions, sharing ideas, communicating concerns, and working cooperatively with all people involved in the education of our students. Without those collaborative experiences, I would not know where to turn when I need support and encouragement within my profession.
In my undergraduate courses at Benedictine, I was continually taught that assessment drives instruction. However, I did not fully understand this concept until I observed and practiced it during my student teaching experience. Towards the end of my experience, I learned how to incorporate ‘6 minute solutions’ reading program into my instruction. With this I was able to analyze the results to flexibly group students and plan for instruction within a balanced literacy program. Also, I learned to use mathematics pre-assessments and standardized test scores to ability group students across two classrooms for each unit in the mathematics curriculum. Using assessments also helped me learn to differentiate instruction in a classroom of mixed interests, abilities, and approaches, which is an important skill in any classroom at any grade level. My experiences with creating and utilizing assessment during student teaching have made me confident that I can use assessment to drive my instruction in my own classroom.
All of my experiences thus far have helped me develop an understanding of the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards in some way. Whether I learned a lesson on communication, assessment, differentiation, or classroom management, all of my experiences have been meaningful and caused me to grow as an educator. I know that as I continue my journey within this profession, I will continue to improve my understanding of the Professional Teaching Standards because every experience is a learning experience. And at the end of each day, if I can confidently say that I have positively influenced a student’s life, I know I have done my job.