- ’10 BS Education
What drew you to pursuing a career in education and why did you choose the University of Nevada, Reno, and the College of Education & Human Development?
It's funny, I get asked this question a lot and my response is consistently, "I have always wanted to be an educator". I remember cleaning out my old room in my parent's house and finding a drawing of "what I want to be when I grow up" from my second-grade class and I had drawn a photo of myself teaching math. I laugh every time I tell my students that story and their puzzled faces ask 'what second grader is passionate about math?' yours truly, kids! My love for education continued to grow as I started tutoring as a high schooler. As a tutor, I shared in my students' joy when they succeeded, I felt purpose when I was able to help them realize their abilities and potential, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out their learning styles and coming up with multiple methods to teach the information so they could understand it. I loved differentiating before I even knew what it was! I knew I wanted to experience these joys and challenges for the rest of my life.
As for what drew me to the University of Nevada? There is something special about the pride Nevadan's have in being a part of the Wolfpack family, and I wanted to be a part of that. Furthermore, the teachers who inspired me growing up were products of the University of Nevada College of Education & Human Development, so I knew I would receive an excellent education and, hopefully, be able to inspire my students as well.
What were your favorite traditions at UNR?
One of the best decisions I ever made was to join Greek life as a freshman and rush Tri-Delta. I loved my time living in the house, hanging with my sisters on the quad, and making lifelong memories and connections in the Greek community. My favorite thing to do with my sisters was cheer on the pack at the football games. There is really nothing like the community that is built through Nevada tailgates coupled with the energy you feel entering Mackay Stadium and seeing a sea of silver and blue. I made some of my favorite memories at these games, met my husband at a Nevada football game, and continue to bleed silver and blue at every game I am able to catch!
How did your education in the College of Education & Human Development contribute to your career and life journey?
One quote, which will always stick with me, is "teaching is a lifestyle, not a profession." This quote was given during one of Mrs. Fael's many intriguing and beneficial lessons in classroom management, learning styles, and differentiation techniques. It's been so long that I can't tell you the class title but what I can tell you is that class and that quote has stayed with me forever. That class taught me more than pedagogy, it taught me that good teachers know their content, great teachers know their students. I learned that creating a welcoming environment and building positive and trusting relationships with students was equally as important as knowing your content. Sometimes that means going to the sports game or band or cheer competition, sometimes that means staying late to help tutor a student who fell behind, and sometimes that means showing students what self-care looks like. That class taught me that we have a duty to students as educators to show our students what a caring adult looks like. On top of teaching content, of course. My time in the college of education also prepared me to think outside of the educational norm when preparing lessons. One professor who challenged me to do so was Dr. Quinn. He challenged us as math teachers to explore discovery methods rather than memorization techniques for content rules and procedures. Many of us in the math world want to teach the way we were taught, however, Dr. Quinn taught us to be flexible and recognize as technology advances and our students' access to information increases, it is our duty to be willing to grow with our students and challenge them using 21st-century tools. Even if those 21st-century tools are Geometer's Sketchpad (that one's for you Dr. Q).
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
I have spent the last seven years as the Leadership advisor at Sparks High School and I could not be more proud of the program that I have built with my students. We focus our time on building positive school culture, supporting our community, and promoting Railroader pride. I am incredibly honored to work with the inspiring leaders that have come through the program and guide them in their work to make Sparks a welcoming environment for all of our students. As a leadership group, we not only plan assemblies, dances, and spirit weeks, but we regularly reflect on our school's climate and what we can do to improve it while supporting staff and students. Helping students become empathetic and reflective servant leaders has been the highlight of my career!
What advice would you give to students following in your footsteps today?
Become a substitute teacher now, even if you only sub once or twice a month. The experience will help you grow your classroom management style and find your grade niche.
Remember that teaching is a journey, like anything in life you will have great days and you will have challenging days. On those challenging days, lean on your colleagues, your support system, and even on your students. It is okay to show your students that you are human, in fact, it helps build relationships because your students will understand that being human in your classroom is accepted and encouraged.
Finally, bring your personality, your uniqueness, and your passion into your classroom. Students should enter your room and feel your presence. I have a "BOB" punching torso in my room for students when they're angry and a personal care corner with supplies and hygiene products for students to let them know that I appreciate their humanity. I have entirely too many rhinestones and glittery pink things in my classroom because I am obsessed with both. I have walls filled with photos of my students, my friends, and my family to show students where my love and priorities lie. I randomly break out with made-up songs about whatever we are learning at the time and crack the cheesiest of cheesy jokes. Turning your classroom into your happy place allows students a glimpse at who you are, prompts relationship building, and hopefully turns your happy place into their happy place.
What has been a recent meaningful moment for you in your teaching? We are calling these “Moments that Matter”.
The little things are the big things in education. Being invited to college graduation, a student shouting me out as their senior quote, students trusting me enough to confide in me, running into students after years who have a story about something they will always remember from their time in my class all come to mind but my most recent moment that matters happened last week.
Every year we organize something called "warm and fuzzy day". Leadership makes 1300 yarn necklaces and gives one to each person in the school. Each necklace has a ball of small yarn pieces on the end and students take one of their pieces of yarn to give to another student while they complement them and tie the yarn to their necklace. On this day one student stayed after class to give me one of his pieces of yarn. He explained to me that he has always struggled in math and was very afraid to be in Algebra 2 because of this and never expected to pass, better yet understand so well that he could tutor his neighbors. He continued that he has gained confidence in his math abilities and appreciates my teaching style as well as my love for my students. I would have never expected that he has struggled mathematically because he is such a stellar student. I teared up as he was talking because it is easy to forget that we really do have the ability to positively impact someone's life. I tell students every year that no one is bad at math, they just haven't had great experiences with it yet and that's what I'm here for. I was touched that I was able to help this student have one of those positive experiences.