Exceptional Education teacher Jennifer Ferguson is the latest educator in the EdCo Teacher Spotlight. Her energy in the classroom and enthusiasm for teaching is electric! An active member of the CoOp and current grad-school student, Jennifer’s plate is full, and we’re grateful she made the time to share her thoughts on the work and the role The Educators’ Cooperative plays in it all.
Where do you teach, what you teach, and how long you’ve been in the game?
I teach in MNPS at Hermitage Elementary School (HES). We are a quiet little secret, tucked away in a community and if you don’t know we are there you can’t really find us. We are a true community school. I teach exceptional education, also referred to as special education. I have students kinder through 4th grade with a mix of disabilities and challenges. I have been at HES for 5 years, in MNPS for 7 years, but a total of 21 years in the field of education.
What fuels your passion for teaching?
My love for education, the disability community, collaboration, outreach and advocacy as a whole really are my passions. Supporting families throughout the greater Nashville community with my advocacy efforts, collaborating with teachers directly and guiding them in making discoveries for their own personal growth really is awesome. At this stage in my career and my life I truly have come to look at the role of teacher/educator in the broader sense of “everyone is a student”. It doesn’t have to be just a child or adolescent in grades K-12. Whether I am teaching a parent about the IEP process, teaching another teacher about flexible seating in the classroom, teaching a paraprofessional about behavior modification or teaching one of my students how to read sight words in context, it’s all teaching. It’s the same end result no matter the topic or the person. Identify a topic that they need to learn more about and provide the direct instruction, knowledge, guidance, support and build confidence for them to use it on their own.
Is teaching an art or a science?
Teaching is both an art and a science. The art of teaching comes with years of experience and enough knowledge, skill set and an extremely large tool box to address any situation that comes your way without freezing in the moment. I like to think that the art of teaching happens when you don’t have to live by a lesson plan to do your job. However, the science of teaching is directly related to the need to collect data. Science has proven that data collection provides for more growth in the classroom as it helps to gauge the rate of progress and the skills mastered. Knowing when to move on, or how long to spend on a given topic and the level of mastery reached on any given topic comes from the use of an understanding of data collection. Even knowing the best method or strategy for teaching specific students can be addressed by understanding the science behind individual learning styles.
What advice do you have for someone who is “on the fence” to apply to join the Educators’ Cooperative?
The best advice I have for anyone considering EdCo is to ask yourself one question. Are you a growth minded person who thrives in a collaborative environment? If your answer is YES, then there should be no fence. Join now without hesitation, you’ll be glad you did. If your answer is sometimes, then you need to ask yourself what is it about those times that is positive for you as a teacher. Then talk with a current EdCo member and ask if that scenario happens in our group. If you want to learn to be a more collaborative teacher and are motivated by others then EdCo will move you in the right direction, the choice is yours. You will be blown away by all that is happening and available if you take the leap of faith and join us on this amazing mission, #forteachersbyteachers.