I recently interviewed Kara as part of my Teacher Feature series. Teacher Feature is my opportunity to be the counter-narrative to the common negative dialogue around teachers and education. Most teachers love their jobs and work incredibly hard to meet the needs of every student. So I'm sharing their stories and what keeps them going. Here's more about Kara. Enjoy.
Where and what do you teach?
This is my ninth year as a classroom teacher. I teach a self-contained 4th grade class in a public school in McKinney, TX. In the past I taught fourth grade in Richardson, TX then I taught fifth grade at a charter school in Austin before returning to the Dallas area.
Favorite Book? Oh my goodness. I don't think I have one favorite. I go through different seasons of reading where I find a new favorite and then a few months later fall in love with another book. Right now, I love non-fiction more than ever, and I have a large stack of gardening, herbal information and homesteading books by my bedside. The Garden Primer has been my go-to for the past few years of gardening firsts.
Favorite children's book?
Wonder is one of the best books I've ever read. In my opinion, it is THE best book for teaching empathy. R.J. Palacio does such a wonderful job of retelling the same story from different perspectives. It is an excellent read for both children and adults. Get your tissue ready though, it's a tearjerker for sure! I also started reading The Lightning Thief with one of my student book club groups recently, and I am having a hard time putting it down. Rick Riordan is a super engaging author.
Do you incorporate your love of gardening into the classroom?
Yes! Two years ago we started a Garden Club at school. I organized the club with the help of a church volunteer who provides the materials and leads the activities. The club meets during recess for fourth grade students. This year my school also started The Leader in Me program based on Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I lead a Garden Club a few times a month as part of the leadership we incorporated. During our meetings we plant seeds, learn how to care for plants, weed and water the garden, watch videos and munch on whatever grows in the garden.
Why did you become a teacher?
Originally, I became a teacher simply because I love kids. I babysat as soon as I was old enough and well into my twenties. I also worked at a daycare for my first job and throughout college. I always knew that I would choose a profession that involved children, so teaching was a natural fit. Through teaching, I fell in love with learning all over again and I love sharing this with my students.
If you could tell parents one thing, what would you say?
When you think about your child, try to think long-term. Keep the end goal in mind. What is going to help shape them into the best versions of themselves? What is best for their future? It is great to live in the moment, but as teachers, we are always thinking about the future and how what we do today will hopefully help shape them long-term into caring and confident individuals. It's important to deal with behavior and learning challenges now rather than wait to see if they will disappear. Having a partner in parents to address these issues is key and helps the child feel he or she can overcome the obstacle. Children will be more equipped to handle life's challenges and more able to reach their full potential later in life.
What is your secret weapon in the classroom?
Instilling a love of learning in the students and helping them understand I believe in them. I don't know that those are my "secret weapons" per say, but they are the most important to me.
How do you integrate technology into the classroom?
I use it as a way to hook students into lessons by showing short video clips, movie previews, author interviews, clips from a news report and so on. The students use it a lot during station work. BrianPop, I-station, Think Through Math, Khan Academy, Study Jams are all great resources that I use weekly, if not daily. I am using Google Drive more lately. I still have a lot to learn, but the students and I always enjoy using it. It is SO great that you can share and comment back and forth. The students also really enjoy highlighting, typing notes and reading their new online Social Studies textbook adoption.
How do you balance or juggle teaching and home responsibilities?
Not very well. This has been a continuous struggle for me during my entire teaching career. I go through phases. I have found I'm best at keeping balance during holidays or when a family member especially needs me. When my husband broke his wrist this past spring, I started leaving work earlier than usual. I wish I was always great at balancing, but it definitely ebbs and flows during different seasons of life and of teaching.
Greatest teaching moment to date:
When misconceptions or preconceived notions can be resolved and everyone is on the same side fighting for the child, I feel so grateful to have my position as an educator. Some of my other favorite moments include watching the students laugh out loud while reading or watching them smile as they read independently knowing they are "inside" their books. Having them tell me they "get it now" after I show them a different strategy in math never gets old. These are the moments that I most enjoy teaching.
Any other thoughts on education or teaching?
Something has to change. I wish I knew the answer but I don't. I'd love to be a part of the solution and work with others to make a change. I just don't have an answer yet.
Thank you, Ms. Bova. You already are a part of the solution! Showing up every day for those kids is part of the solution, although probably the most challenging piece of the puzzle at times. Keep up the hard work and perseverance. It is clear that your "team-work" effort and creating partners with parents will pay off.