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Teacher of the Day

Name:  Janet Coe

School:  The Woodlands Christian Academy

Subject: Ancient History / American History

State:  Texas

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

I was once traveling with friends of our family when I was about 12 years old. The youngest child of the family I was traveling with was having trouble understanding how we have day and night and their relationship with the rotation of the Earth. As he drove the father tried to explain, but she shook her head in confusion. Her mother tried another explanation, but she was still not satisfied. Even her brother tried and failed to satisfy the curious little girl. Finally I picked up an orange from the snacks we had and stuck her brother's pencil through it. Then, using the map light as the sun, I gave it a shot. Talk about a light bulb moment. She was even able to explain it to her parents after that.

Later, the father complimented me on this moment of inspiration. He told me I had a different way of looking at the world and communicating how something works, especially to someone younger than myself. "You should be a teacher when you grow up," he said. That moment has stuck with me for nearly 40 years.

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

I was completely dependent on the Teachers' Edition. If it had an idea or presentation suggestion, that is exactly how I did it. Verbatim. Now I teach off the cuff. I have a plan, I have the goals. I just don't have the book gripped in my white-knuckled hands anymore.

Now I may grab music from the Internet, or draw a cartoon version of a chain of events and so on. .

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

Find a mentor. Look around you. Who do you see that seemingly has it all together and connects with the kids? Who do you want to be like when you "grow up?" Go seek and ask. You can go to all the education classes/in-services/professional development around you, but a living, breathing soul who will take time to share with you cannot be topped. Visit their classes and observe. Don't make yourself a clone of another, but glean from these opportunities how to streamline all those responsibilities we all have. Pick up your mentor's experience.

My best day in the classroom was when…

my fourth graders were struggling with two-digit multiplication. They were forever missing the zero placeholder, thus messing up the final answer. So one day I was trying to figure out what the kids would avoid if they had to "sit" where the placeholder goes? I finally decided on a sumo wrestler. So I cut out a small clip art picture of a sumo wrestler and he become our placeholder. I even did an impression of a sumo wrestler preparing for his match, which was pretty silly with the sound effects. The kids loved it. Then, every time they had to put the rounded 0 in place, they would say, "sumo," under their breath. Wow. How fun is that?

The best compliment I ever received was...

when a parent told me of the recollections of the students at a fifth grade graduation to middle school. She related how many mentioned lessons and events from my class, or field trips that we had been on. I did not teach them in the fifth grade, so I was surprised to hear our year together was even mentioned.

What's your favorite part of the school year?

I love those first few weeks of school. The kids are ready for a return to routine, and so am I. More importantly, I am always amazed at how my classes last year were the "best" and just couldn't be topped.

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

A whiteboard with lots of markers.

What do you eat for breakfast on school days?

A bowl of cereal, the same thing I had when I was a kid.

What movie or TV show do you secretly love?

The Tudors.


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