A Warm Welcome “Chuck, chuck, chuck! ” is the sound of the stapler I hear as I walk into Ms. Hernandez’s room. It is around 10:00 am, and she has just finished with one of her many meetings for the day. I can see that her room is well-organized; the tables, chairs, posters, name tags, ABC charts, and all her supplies are in their assigned places. With a smile as big as the state of Florida, Ms. Hernandez welcomes me. We pull out two miniature chairs from one of her small tables and begin our conversation, just like old friends catching up.
I ask, “When you think of someone who inspires you, who comes to mind? ” Ms. Hernandez quickly responds, “I’m inspired by Saint Frances Cabrini. ” “Why? ” I ask. “For her strong conviction and insistence that children be loved and live the life that every child deserves,” she responds. Ms. Hernandez is currently a half-time classroom teacher. She teaches math, science, and social studies during the first half of her day. Then she spends the other half of the day as an instructional coach for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
Ochoa 2 When I ask Ms. Hernandez about how she brings the community into her school, she responds, “From day one, students know that each person in the class is an equal and valuable member of the community. The way we speak to each other, respect each other, and relate to each other is clear. These behaviors are modeled by everyone at all times, including the teacher. ” Ms. Hernandez earned a bachelor’s degree in science elementary ducation from Loyola University, a master’s of education in supervision and curriculum from University of Phoenix, LDE certificate from Regis University, many hours of professional development, and graduate course work from Aurora Public Schools and other institutions. This fall marks the beginning of her twelfth year in education. She has taught kindergarten, fourth, fifth, third grades, and now first grade. Over the years she has had different teaching assignments that have required her to team teach, teach departmentally (math, science, and social studies), and lead teach.
She has worked in various types of schools ranging from a small Catholic school to an inner-city public housing school. Mr. Hernandez adds, “Ten of my eleven years in the classroom have been working with poverty stricken populations. ” “What are some major lessons you have learned after all your years of being an educator? ” I ask. “Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned is having high expectations. Through many mistakes, and many successes, I have learned that I cannot be a successful teacher without expecting students to be the best learner they can be.
This Ochoa 3 includes expecting students to behave with respect and dedication, as well as expecting them to achieve academically. ” To her, when a teacher believes in a student and supports a student, one sees achievement day-to-day. “I also expect the best from myself. I am committed to putting every ounce of hard work and understanding into my plans, assessments, and classroom instruction,” she adds. The most rewarding aspect to teaching, she feels, is the laughter of a child.
The students’ happiness, energy, and eagerness for learning bring her great joy. “I cannot imagine finding that same kind of fulfillment in any other field! ” “Wow, Ms. Hernandez, that is powerful. ” I sit back and reflect on that last answer. I re-adjust myself in the small chair, as she continues to talk. She tells me that the most severe challenge she sees the teachers facing today is the infrastructure of the school system itself. In her opinion, American public schools need to be re-structured to meet the needs of modern America.
With a sparkle in her look, she continues on, “Everything from the agrarian-based traditional calendar, to class size seems to be based on ideas from the past. Teachers cannot be expected to meet the needs of their learners with techniques and tools that simply aren’t flexible enough for the diversity in any given classroom. ” She feels that teachers need to consider themselves as professionals and as equal in importance to that of physicians. I ask, “Can you explain that to me, please? ” Ochoa 4
Ms. Hernandez responds, “What I mean is more thorough and longer training. Preparation involves many layers of in-class practice (not just a semester of student teaching). Obviously this would mean that society would have to change the value placed on teachers, so that a teacher who spends the time and money to train as thoroughly as I suggest they need to be trained would receive a salary that reflects that professional commitment. ” A light flashes in my mind as I ponder this for a moment.
I quickly respond, “Now that I see it that way, I would have to agree with you. ” Ms. Hernandez chuckles as she sees my facial expression change from a blank stare to a new realization. When asked what advice she would give someone coming into the field, her face gets serious. “Go out into the schools and see what they are like. Becoming a teacher is more than liking the children. It’s understanding children, their parents, the influences in the world around them, and their diverse cultures as this cannot be studied in a classroom.
You have to see it in action to appreciate it and know whether or not you still want to be a part of it. ” I inform her that this makes it a bit easier for me as I have been in the classrooms and work closely with the students and their parents. She tells me, “Yes, you do have that advantage. ” One of her goals this year is to better manage her time in a paper-free world. She hopes to plan, organize, and record keep with as little paper as possible. As I conclude our conversation, I gather my thoughts and papers. “Ms. Hernandez, I want to thank
Ochoa 5 you for your time. I want to extend my gratitude by letting you know that I chose you because you’re in inspiration to me. I see you and hope to see myself one day. ” With a warm and very thankful hug, she tells me, “Thanks, Mirella. I, too, hope to see you become a great teacher and achieve all your goals. Keep up the wonderful work, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Have a great afternoon at school. ” I leave her classroom with a new look at what a teacher is all about. I know that I have my work cut out for me.