Denise Willmore is part of the inaugural cohort of the Utah Teacher Fellows. She is an incredible advocate for teachers and students in Utah. You can read about one of her #caringclassroom practices on Sevenzo. Let’s get to know her!
Where did you do your teacher prep? Northern Michigan University and The University of St. Thomas. I am so thankful that I had a student teaching experience where a worked at the side of a veteran teacher. I believe that this was the foundation of my development as an educator.
Where have you taught in your teaching career? Mounds View Public Schools, MN; Douglas County, CO; Davis District, UT.
What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? There are so many… A first grade student opened a map and looked at me very puzzled. She said, “Mrs. Willmore, I see New Mexico, where is old Mexico?”
What advice would you give to new teachers? Be reflective, collaborate with your team, and take care of yourself. The best classroom practice doesn’t happen overnight. It is important to continually reflect on what worked in your teaching and what you would do differently. Your colleagues are your greatest resource and support. Communicate with your team, collaborate on lesson and share ideas. You will learn from your veteran colleagues and they will learn from you.
What is your favorite teacher resource? Utah Online Library. There are many wonderful resources to use in the classroom and also for educational research.
Describe any experience you have had in education policy. I have collaborated with UEA to give feedback on ESSA. I am also a member of the Professional Learning Task Force for USBOE. I have worked at my district level to give feedback on local issues such as therapy dogs in the classroom, math curriculum, and contract hours. In addition, I have attended Educator on the Hill for the past 4 years and communicated with legislators. I have also participated in interviewing candidates for local and state elected positions.
I would encourage educators to communicate with policy makers at the local and state level. If something isn’t working in your classroom, do not be afraid to ask questions and produce a viable solution. If every teacher in the state did one small thing to have their voice heard, it would expand teacher voice exceptionally.
What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? At this time, lower class size. I feel like students are coming into classrooms with increasing issues and it is very difficult to meet every students needs. I currently have 27 students in my classroom and have 10 students receiving some type of intervention. I know that I would be much more effective if I had 3-7 less children.
Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? I was a struggling learner as an elementary student and I was inspired by an educator that encouraged me to never give up. I stay in the classroom because of my students. I love when I teach a lesson and see faces light up and when students are excited to learn. I believe that every students deserves an educator that believes in them and advocates for their needs.
Anything else we should know? I am a very passionate teacher and advocate for public education. I believe that we can do so much more for students in Utah. I believe that teacher voice is vital in making changes in our profession.
Follow Denise on her teacher leadership journey via Twitter @willtoteachmore