Teacher Feature: Miss Furr

Katie and I met ten years ago when we were both working for a nonprofit in midtown. Katie's quick wit, humor and maternal nature are the perfect pairing for a middle school classroom, running high with teen hormones. Here’s a little more about her teaching career.

Where and what do you teach?

I teach English Language Arts in a special education setting at a public school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Favorite book:

Sorry, but I can’t name just one.To Kill a Mockingbird; Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun; anything by David Sadaris or Anne Lamott.

I loved the awkwardness and honesty of middle schoolers.

Favorite children’s book:

I teach middle school so I’ll go young adult favorites: The first three in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I love how much kids love those books. I also love A Fault In Our Stars and The Giver. Both tear-jerkers.

Why did you become a teacher?

I fought it for a while, but I really feel like teaching was a meeting point of my strengths and the things I felt passionate about: children, advocacy, poverty and, obviously, education. Before teaching, I was working at a nonprofit teaching English as a Second Language and running a drop-in center for teens. I was tutoring a senior in high school who struggled with reading and basic math. It made me question what was happening in schools. How had this child made it to 12th grade without learning how to read?

The next year I completed an internship in a school to try it out and I loved it. I loved the awkwardness and honesty of middle schoolers. I found that I enjoyed learning alongside students and I gained a love of helping students with learning differences. The following year, I was accepted into the TeachingFellows program and have been teaching for five years now.

Each year, Katie asks her dad to lead a song writing workshop when he visits from Alabama.

Each year, Katie asks her dad to lead a song writing workshop when he visits from Alabama.

If you could tell parents any one thing, would would you say?

Trust us. Teachers want what's best for your kids. Please listen to us. Also, be interested in your student's education. If you value learning and education, your child will value it also.

What is your secret weapon in the classroom?

Humor. It can calm a stressful situation, diffuse behavior problems or cheer up a kid who has been crying. There's a lot of crying in middle school.

There’s a lot of crying in middle school. Humor is my secret weapon.

How do you integrate technology in the classroom?

Our school uses google docs for everything. I think it's important for the students to learn the most efficient ways to use technology, rather than only focusing on games and apps. I also use my iPad for struggling writers. We use a software that allows the student to speak and the iPad creates a transcript.

Katie's class upon learning that they raised enough funds for a new classroom library. How precious are they?
Katie's class upon learning that they raised enough funds for a new classroom library. How precious are they?

How do you dress for school?

I try to dress as professionally as possible. I think it's important for the  students to see me as a role model in all areas of life. Yet, being on my feet all day, I allow myself casual Fridays. Also being from Alabama, I wear my cowboy boots with skirts. The kids love it and always ask questions. They are a great conversation starter and have been the subject of many free writes.

Greatest teaching moment to date:

Oh, it’s too difficult to pick just one! It's days when students ask to stay after school and help you for no reason, A day a lesson goes well, times I've run into old students and I won't lie- I've shed a tear or two at 8th grade graduations.

Any advice for new teachers? 

The best advice I have heard for teachers is advice aimed for public speaking:

1. Do your homework
2. Love your audience
3. Be yourself