Today’s post is awesome– because our featured teacher offers some excellent advice for new teachers. I’m so pumped to spotlight Amberlee Ellett today. Amber is doing incredible things in virtual education and is a great example of what teachers in very rural settings can do to not only impact education in their own community, but have an impact in the state. Read on to learn more about Mrs. Ellett.
Where did you do your teacher prep? Southern Utah University
Where have you taught in your teaching career? Wayne High School and Mountain Heights Academy
What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? Oh there are so many… but one in particular comes to mind. When I was teaching Theatre at a brick and mortar high school, we were discussing some of the vocabulary used unique to this content, and one of my high school students said, “It’s really ok if you are a thespian, we accept everyone and still think you’re an awesome teacher. No judgement.”
What advice would you give to new teachers? First, ask lots of questions and reach out to seek support from other teachers and professionals, even if they are not in your specific content area. I think sometimes we tend to get “stuck” in our own unique content corners, and neglect, or dismiss as not applicable, the wealth of knowledge and support others can offer to us by virtue of being fellow education professionals. I personally have learned so many rich and diverse practices from educators far outside of my specific concentration that have enriched my teaching practice way beyond what I would have thought possible.
Second, be specific in what you need and ask for it. I am sure we have all had the experience of attending a conference or a professional development opportunity and coming back to your classroom on fire with the new techniques, approach or skills you learned about. You can’t wait to utilize these amazing things, and then you look at your classroom, your students and your content and are not sure how to take that information and translate it into action. Ask for modeling, ask for additional resources. Don’t let the process of experimenting with next steps deter you from being a more progressive and innovative educator. This brings me to the next one…
Third, don’t be afraid to “fail.” Trust yourself as an expert, and then get creative with curriculum and your individual teaching style. Take ownership for what you are putting out there to your students and try new things. As my five year old reminded me the other day, “mom you just don’t know if you don’t even try.” I have found that even when something doesn’t line up perfectly with my vision of how it was going to turn out, there are always bits and pieces that do, and this gives me room to build on. You (and your students) miss so much if you are not willing to take a risk.
What’s your favorite teacher resource? Fellow teachers, and open educational resources. OER has so much diverse teacher and student created content and resources that are amazing and FREE.
Describe any experience you have had in education policy. My overall previous experience, as it comes to education policy and teachers, is traditionally we have been a passive profession. What I mean by that is, as educators by and large, we have allowed changes to happen TO us, rather than actively advocating for change to happen FOR us. There are many reasons, and a lot of them valid, for why this has been the pattern. However, valid reasons or excuses aside, I now see the conversation beginning to change. Teachers are owning their voices, doing their research and focusing on solutions driven from within the classroom and what is best for students and advocating for change. Attending Educator Day on the Hill and being able to sit down with my Representative from my area, Rep. Noell, who actually took the time to invite me, as part of a small group of his constituents who were there, back into a meeting room to discuss current issues and bills relevant to education and seek our input was HUGE. This was a mind shift moment for me. I realized teacher voice can only be an active part of the conversation if we are willing to show up and speak up. We have to be willing to put verbs into our sentences.
What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I would like teachers to be more fully recognized, validated and treated as experts in our field. These seem to be fundamental missing pieces and by not having these fully actualized, the result has been a seeming lack of prestige associated with the teaching profession, translated into action as lack of support. In no other field, that I have direct experience with or am aware of, is there such a disconnect and struggle around obtaining necessary resources and supports to be able to appropriately perform professional duties. Teachers not only lack the resources and supports needed for their classrooms and their students, but also lack the financial backing for full personal support. It is a shame to see educated, professional, invested teachers working second and even third jobs to supplement their teaching salaries. Imagine just how much more could be created, developed and implemented in service of directly impacting our students in a positive and progressive manner, if teachers had the financial backing to fully invest solely in being teachers.
Thanks Amber for all you do for Utah students. Your passion for the profession is inspiring! Add Amber to your professional learning network by following her on Twitter @aellettMHacad