Program Director and EdCo Member, Amy Nystrand recently ‘’sat down” virtually with three Edco educators, Anie Hall, Amy Noon, and Amber Thienel. Anie is a 9th grade English teacher at Hendersonville High School, Amy is a 2nd grade teacher at Crieve Hall, and Amber is the District Lead Numeracy Coach supporting middle schools in the south. Listening to them speak is a quick reminder that teaching is a calling and there’s an inherent want to go well beyond the classroom. Read to find out more about.
Where do you teach, what do you teach, and why did you get into teaching?
I teach 9th grade English at Hendersonville High School. This is my 4th year teaching and I love my job! Although I didn’t start teaching right out of college, I’ve always wanted to work in education. I even remember dressing up as a teacher when I was in kindergarten for a career day. Throughout my life, teaching has always been on my mind. After I graduated with my BA in English, I worked outside of education and quickly realized that I wanted to get into the classroom. I love English as a content, I love working with my students, and I love seeing people develop and grow.
I am teaching 2nd grade at Crieve Hall Elementary school. This is my first year here, but I have been teaching for 24 years total. Both of my parents were long-time educators, my mom taught for 15 years and my dad taught for 32 years. So my whole life, somehow, I spent some portion of my day in a school, whether it was my school I was attending or a classroom of my mom’s or dad’s. So when I went off to college I was like, nope, not gonna be a teacher, not gonna do it, I don’t want to do it. Although, I already knew that I enjoyed being around kids, I felt comfortable around them, and I liked showing them how to do things, interacting with them in a way, asking questions. But I think at that time, being that young 18 year old, I’m like I’m gonna buck the system, I’m gonna do something else. I tried business school for a year, that didn’t work out, that was really bad, my brain doesn’t work that way. I’m like, you know what, I’m going to do what I probably felt like I needed to do to begin with, and was just being a little bit of a rebel, which is not me at all, and so I quickly, loved, loved, loved all the education classes. I did my student teaching at a school in Georgia, and it was the year of the Olympics, it was in ‘96, so they were doing the Olympics there in Atlanta. The school where I was teaching had gotten a grant that paid for the whole school to do an entire 6 week unit on the Olympics. Everything was paid for, and I just remember planning that with my cooperating teacher and I was like, yep, so glad that I did this. This is the kind of thing that makes school exciting for everybody. I always worked with kids growing up, I had been babysitting since I was like 12. Came right back to Nashville, and I didn’t get a teaching job right away because they were having a hiring freeze the year that I moved back here, so it took me until the next year. I didn’t start teaching until the following school year, but that’s how I kind of got into it. A long line of educators in our family, I can’t see myself doing anything else at all, which kind of makes this year so hard because I kind of feel like I’m not doing anything right, and it’s challenging everything I know.
Currently, I am in my second year at MNPS as the District Lead Numeracy Coach supporting middle schools in the south. Previously, I was an instructional coach in a building in Franklin Special School District. I did that for 4 years, and then I taught 7th grade for 11 years in the same school. I definitely always knew I wanted to be a teacher, from the time I was little I definitely would play school, and would come home with all my old textbooks that they were discarding, my teachers would be like, does anybody want this, and I was like, yes, of course I want this! I definitely knew from a young age that I’d be a teacher. My sister’s 3rd grade teacher was actually an inspiration, I thought I wanted to teach 3rd grade. She’s a family friend, but she’s the most amazing teacher and I was like, I want to be her when I grow up. When I first started college I actually was a psychology major. One of my life goals, which still is a life goal, I’d like to author a book at some point, and so I thought being a psychology major would be an easy way to do that, and then I realized, no, education is where I need to be. I was an elementary major for a while, and then I started my first practicum, I think it was in first grade, and I was like, woah I am not an elementary school teacher, and I think I did even a 4th grade, and I was like, yeah, still too young. Then I realized that my college had just a 5th through 8th grade major, so I could just focus on the middle grades, and I could do an emphasis in math, and I always wanted to be a math teacher. So I was hooked, that was it.
As an instructional coach, I think the biggest thing I like is the fact that I can impact a lot more, especially a lot more students, being able to touch a lot more teachers, and improve practice with teachers, I can reach a lot more students. I never thought I would, but I really like working with adults, they’re definitely a lot different. You definitely have to understand adult learning theory to be good at it. And coaching is not something I necessarily thought I’d want to do, but I realized I’m actually pretty good at it. I think it fits in well with how I process things and how I think about things. Coaching kind of lends itself to that, being able to listen and collect all the details and problem solve, but also problem solve in a way without telling someone how to do it, like helping them figure it out, like that’s the teaching side to it.
What do you hope your students (or teachers) get from you that isn’t part of the curriculum?
When students leave my classroom, I want them to leave as critical thinkers. I hope they have the confidence to critically look at the world around them and develop perspectives informed by evidence and empathy. With that being said, I hope they’re also empathetic. I want them to leave my class with more compassion and care.
For this year in particular, and I always tell my kids this, that it’s okay to make mistakes because you’re gonna learn from a mistake that you make, but they are seeing me make mistakes every 15 to 20 minutes. It’s something that happens for me with the technology piece because there’s something that is never working, so I’m like ok friends, give Ms. Noon just a minute, and I come back, and they’re like, Ms. Noon you can do it, you did it, and I’m like I did, and we’re just gonna keep going, so now we can regroup and we can keep going. I just showed them it’s ok, we can all stop and take some deep breaths. I think sometimes kids may have a vision of their teacher or their parents, as these people that don’t fail or don’t make mistakes, and that everything seems to go really smoothly, so I think for my students this year in particular, they’re seeing that’s not the case, but that that’s ok, and we’re just going to keep going, and we’re just going to regroup and keep going, and we might not get as far, this is a situation where we’re still learning. I also think they’re seeing that I’m learning from them, because for some of these kids they’ve grown up with nothing but technology. And they’ve said it, they’re like, Ms. Noon, we’re teaching you, and I’m like, you absolutely are! Which is great, I want them to see it as a relationship, we’re both learning from one another, not just me as the teacher figure in the room. They have a lot to offer me, as far as learning about them, about themselves as people, about themselves as learners, and I hope they’re able to see that out of me as well, like me as a real person, not just their teacher.
I aspire to help people realize how important relationships are and how important building classroom culture is, and not forgetting that students are human also, and that they have needs, and they bring a lot to the table. They all have different life experiences. So just realizing that you can draw on all those differences and build a really cool classroom culture when you elevate students and let them kind of be the guides in the classroom. I guess realizing that relationships are really important, and that if you care about people you can get a lot more done.
The Educators’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts.
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