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Teacher of the Day

Name: Connie Connely

School: J.W. Sam Elementary

Subjects: Special Education

State: Oklahoma 

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

I had the best fourth grade teacher! Mrs. Kay Taylor, at McKinley Elementary in Tulsa, OK, had high standards for herself and her students. Mrs. Taylor was only in her second year teaching, but she never floundered once that I could see. She ran an organized classroom, very structured with procedures. Mrs. Taylor's enthusiasm made me want to learn more about our country. I loved her lively geography lessons. This was the 1964-1965 school year . . . long before the Internet and Smartboards! She loved books and read aloud to us at the end of class. I loved it when she would read a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.

Mrs. Taylor not only cared about her students' education, but also their emotional well-being. One day, I think she heard a student make fun of me and she said in front of the class, "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all." Last year, I talked to Mrs. Taylor's daughter, and she told me that her mother had taught for more than forty years!

How are things different for you now, compared to when you first started teaching?

When I started teaching in 1978, we used the rotary duplicator. I always had purple ink on my fingers. We used carbon paper to make a copy of our weekly lesson plans to take to the principal. I think it's great now when I just click the send button.

Teachers didn't dress as casually. We always dressed up for the first day of school. We didn't worry about school shootings . . . who would? Most parents acted supportive, even if they weren't sincere. Students have changed over the years because their parents have different attitudes than previous generations.

What advice would you give to a new or struggling teacher?

Take care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to help anyone. Be sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals. Too often, new teachers will stay up late at night grading papers, then feel tired the next day. 

People will criticize, so learn to take it with a grain of salt. Some parents like to make themselves feel important by complaining. Often, it's much ado about little at all. Be confident in your rules and procedures, and you will have nothing to apologize for.

Do your best every day. When you use class time productively, you feel more at peace at the end of the school year.

My best day in the classroom was when…

There have been many, but I love it when a student who says he hates books finds one and starts reading. I am a special education resource teacher, so I love it when a classroom teacher tells me when a student will volunteer to read aloud for the first time or earns several A.R. points for reading.

The best compliment I ever received was...

Parents have told me that their child feels more secure in school after starting my class.

What's your favorite part of the school year?

I love holidays, but I think my favorite time of our school year is August and September. I love the feeling of a fresh start.

What is your one must-have item for the classroom?

My marker board; I am very visual.

What do you eat for breakfast on school days?

I usually eat cereal with fruit.

What movie or TV show do you secretly love?

The Wizard of Oz

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