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Teacher of the Day

Name:  Dena Deberry

School:  Kathryn T. Daniels University Preparatory Academy

Subject:  Math, reading, writing, social studies, science

State:  Wisconsin

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

I was a little girl who used to play school with my stuffed animals, and I would line them up on my bedroom floor and give them assignments and grade them like my teachers did me. I was five years old, and ever since then, I knew being a teacher was my true calling.

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

I would have to say as I am going into my 14th year of teaching, things are vastly differently for me because I work in a very needy population in the city. The students have so much baggage that they bring with them on a daily basis, and it's hard to reach them academically because they are affected by issues such as socio-economics, physical and verbal abuse, to name a few. I just have to put myself in their shoes, try to identify with them and share my life experiences, let them know they can do the things that I have done, and remind them that they do not have to be a product of their environment.

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

Your first year will be your hardest year, but it will also be your best, especially if you are working in an urban environment. The students will probably have a chip on their shoulder and be disrespectful towards you, but if you love them and respect them, they will turn the other cheek and protect you. Just have a mentor teacher to whom you can go for help. Do not fall through the cracks with classroom management.

My best day in the classroom was when…

I was teaching in Denver, Colorado at Omar D. Blair, and my students had made me cards for Teacher Appreciation Day. They were so well designed, and so much thought was put into them. Students had them laid out on my desk in the shape of a heart, and that in itself was thoughtful and heartfelt.

What's your favorite part of the school year?

My favorite part of the school year is Christmas, and not necessarily for the vacation, but for the fact that when we return, I can see the growth from fall to spring. Students do very well on tests in the later part of the year and maybe by then, we have established a culture, behaviors are a non-issue, and students are engaged in their learning. So the second semester is the favorite part of the year for me.

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


What do you eat for breakfast on school days?

I do not eat breakfast in the morning (my schedule does not permit me to eat), but I eat lunch with my students, so they fight over who will sit next to me and in front of me.

What movie or TV show do you secretly love?

The movie Mermaids


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