Lower Elementary Teacher of the Year Alesha Winburn.

Lower Elementary Teacher of the Year Alesha Winburn.

2. What is your teaching philosophy and methods used to implement such a philosophy?
A.) My teaching philosophy is that learning is not just the memorization of information. A child cannot learn by strictly memorizing information and spitting it back out word for word on a test. Teaching means giving students information and working with them and the information until they grasp it and understand it in ways that they can apply it beyond the context it is taught. I believe my responsibility as a teacher is to be a pathway that allows access between my students and an unlimited amount of knowledge. It may not always be my knowledge directly, but I lead them in the direction of how to find it. The resources I lead them to include library books, dictionaries, and technologies such as computers and Ipads for researching.
Diversity is a common occurrence in classrooms because all students are not exactly alike. When handling learners’ differences, I make accommodations and do what is best for each student. It is my belief that each student should have a fair chance at success and given the best education possible no matter what his or her difference is from the other students.
Depending on the student, his or her ability to learn can be facilitated by an individualistic or cooperative environment. Some students are self-driven and prefer to work on their own. Other students learn better by working together and learning from each other. I believe that both environments are acceptable and can be used in the classroom on a regular basis. I do not believe in the competitive environment for children at school because they then worry about doing better than the other students instead of just doing their best on assignments. I believe it is important to keep students motivated through praise and encouragement. I challenge and support students by pushing them academically and having high expectations for each of them, but I also provide extra help when they need it.
Learning does not depend solely on my teaching; students have a responsibility as well. Students must actively participate in class in order to learn. This can be carried out in a number of ways such as completing assignments, contributing to class discussions, and working cooperatively with peers. I believe each student benefits from this responsibility because he or she is taking charge of and participating in his or her own education. This is valuable because they are more likely to retain what they are learning about if they are responsible for exploring the topic with me versus me telling them exactly what they need to know.
My beliefs about teaching are demonstrated every day in my classroom by my personal teaching style. Each day I accommodate and adapt lessons to meet the class needs as well as individual needs. My students are used to transitioning between a cooperative and individualistic learning environment on a daily basis. As the year progresses, they become more comfortable teaching themselves about topics of interest that we are not covering in class at that point.

3. How does it make you feel to have such an honor as Teacher of the Year?

For my peers to recognize all that I do not only to better myself as a teacher, but that I also do everything I can for each of my students as well and choose me to represent our building as Teacher of Year has been such a humbling and exciting experience. To have the honor as Teacher of the Year is such a meaningful experience in itself, but it has been especially meaningful and momentous to me since I have only been in the classroom for four years and two of them have been at Mannford.
4. What is it that you most hope to bring to your students?

I hope to bring to my students the love, fun, and curiosity of learning and discovering while they are young so that as they get older they never settle for not knowing.

5. Give an example of a project or activity that your students participated in that supports your philosophy.
Each year my class works on a space project during the spring semester. We begin the unit by learning about the basics of space, what makes our universe, and briefly learn about the planets. While this is part of our whole class learning, I’m also preparing them for the upcoming project at this time as well. The goal of the project is for the students to pick a specific topic of interest within space, research further beyond what we have learned in class, and in the end teach the rest of the class about that interest. The students have the choice to complete it in a small group or individually. Groups, if chosen, are based on interest not ability. The end requirements for the project are simple enough yet still challenging enough that any student can do the project regardless of his or her academic standing. The project can be as in depth or as simple as the student or group wants as long as they have done their research and met the minimum requirements. The end results are a presentation in which the group or individual teaches the rest of the class about their chosen interest.
6. What is the main challenge that you face in teaching? What actions do you take to overcome it?
The main challenge I face in teaching is the state expectations that all students should learn, achieve, and test the same as one another depending on their grade level. In reality, that is not the case in any classroom. All students differ from one another and logically cannot be expected to perform the exact same way as each other all the time. The actions I take to overcome the challenge is to continue doing what I feel is right for my students and their needs while also preparing them for what the state expects of them. I continue to push the class along as a whole in curriculum, but also go back and fill in learning gaps for those students who are behind or struggling academically.
7. Describe what is your favorite part of teaching and your lease favorite.
My favorite part of teaching is learning and growing with the kids. Throughout the year I learn and grow with them just as much as they do individually. Each year is a year of teaching and supporting each other academically, socially with friendships, and emotionally on good days and bad. We are each other’s biggest fans. My least favorite part of teaching is all the extra components we as teachers are expected to complete to “prove” ourselves. While it is needed in a sense, the extent that it is pushed upon us takes away from time we could be using to plan for greater things in our classrooms.