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Teacher of the Day

Name:  Paula Robinson

School:  Hamden Middle School

Subject:  Special Education, Past English 7 and 9-12, Social Studies 7,8

State:  CT

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

I attended a private, Catholic girls' high school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Hamden, CT. My 10th-grade biology teacher, Sr. Madeline, was not happy that I was "off-task" one day and assigned me to teach the class the next day. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener, but I loved it! The rest is history. Fast forward to February 2014: Sr. Madeline is my mother's companion at Clelian Adult Day Care Center, and so I see her often. She just laughs when I tell her about my day!

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

Things are very different. First of all, the bar has been raised significantly. When I first started teaching in 1983, there was no curriculum per se. We were just expected to teach. Simply said, there were no expectations except for the teacher to deliver information to his/her students. Each teacher had his/her own agenda. Consequently, some students had great experiences and others not so much. Today everone is "on the same page," or close to it. The standards can be thought of as a road map to success. The UBDs my district uses makes things equitable. Years ago, one would hear a lot about teacher requests, but not so much today. The teaching profession has become more accountable and more professional.

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

I would tell then something I was told my first year teaching: One should treat every child as if they were his own child. Secondly, I would tell them to realize that this is an all-encompassing profession that really does require 100 percent devotion and passion in order to be done right. If you are not prepared for that level of loyalty and effort, you should find another career.

My best day in the classroom was when…

There have been many, but the best day was when a young soldier walked in my door and said hello. I did not recognize him and asked if I could help him. He told me his name and said he wanted to thank me for not giving up on him when he was in 7th grade. He was headed off to Iraq for his third tour of duty. Since he would come visit regularly, I became concerned when he was not around for a while. I called his mother, who said he lived in Florida with his family. I never knew that I had mattered that much to this young boy.

The best compliment I ever received was...

I had a student who was giving everyone a run for their money. A young teacher sent an email saying some pretty scary things about the child. I was cc'd on the email, and my first thoughts were of the parents, how they must be feeling. The teacher used some pretty frightening psychiatric terms. I immediately sent a simple email to the parents reassuring them that I had not seen such behaviors and that their child was a "regular" kid just dealing with adolescence. It was a Friday evening, and I knew what those parents were going through. They sent me a message which stated that they were so thankful for my message and that I made their weekend. They said they were in tears and so relieved. As a parent, I have faced many fearful thoughts about my children and just could not bear to have these folks in so much pain.

What's your favorite part of the school year?

My favorite part of the school year is the fall. We have gotten past the uncertainty and awkward times. I know my students and have met their families by then. Everyone is in full learning mode. The kids are ready to learn.

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

The one must-have item in the classroom today is a computer that can communicate with a Smart Board.

What do you eat for breakfast on school days?

I eat a 6-ounce container of Chobani yogurt on school days.

What movie or TV show do you secretly love?

Gone With the Wind


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