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The Reflective Teacher:

About Stephanie Blackburn

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My name is Stephanie Blackburn. Teaching is what I do, and a teacher is who I am. That feeling is not original -- many teachers share it -- but teaching is the true essence of who I am as a person. Education was embedded in my family values and constantly modeled by my parents. My love for school and my desire for acquiring information constantly drew me to positions working, or interacting, with children. As a high school student, I worked as an assistant at a local day care center. I quickly recognized the thrill of watching a child grow and develop and began to realize that children are our future; that they embody the dreams and aspirations of us all. I wanted to effectively contribute to their life long journey, therefore I decided to enter the education profession.

I graduated from the University of Rhode Island in May 1994 with a bachelors degree in elementary education. The following fall, I began my teaching career as an enrichment specialist in the talent development program for the Westerly, Rhode Island, school district.

During my first year in Westerly, a suburban, shoreline community with a varied economic base, I was responsible for teaching gifted and talented students at the middle school level, and for providing enrichment opportunities for classrooms at the elementary level. My second year consisted of staff development and modeling enrichment techniques at the elementary level.

After spending two years in other peoples classrooms, I felt I was ready to conquer a regular-inclusion classroom of my own. I bid for a position in one of the smaller schools in the district (approximately 250 students) with one of the highest poverty levels (about 40 percent.) Suddenly, I was challenged with motivating a core group of students for six and a half hours a day, not just for an hour at a time! Responsible for the educational life of about 18 children, I was forced to reflect daily about what worked and what didnt work in my classroom.

As I began my ninth year of teaching -- my seventh as a fourth grade teacher -- I was honored with the Milken Educator Award. The support I receive from my principal, Jon Romeo, other colleagues, and the district as a whole is overwhelming. Even so, I still find myself constantly reflecting on what can be improved or modified in my teaching.

Article by Stephanie Blackburn
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