Spotlight on New Teachers

“I wasn’t born to teach. I was born to inspire others, to change people, and to never give up; even when faced with challenges that seem impossible.” -Anonymous

Klaryssa Seigley, Norterra Canyon K-8 & Norwalk High School 8-12 School city: Phoenix Arizona, Norwalk Ohio

The OFLA Beginning Teacher Committee is working hard to connect with new teachers and support them to become excellent, innovative, resourceful, and long lasting world language teachers. Our goal is to provide a network of resources, strategies and tools for new teachers. We want new teachers to know that they are not alone and that OFLA is here to help them. To this end, we will be interviewing new teachers throughout the year and highlighting them in The Cardinal. Klaryssa is currently teaching in France with the TPAF program.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

I absolutely love being able to build a strong rapport and community with my students. Helping them to overcome their personal obstacles and watching them blossom into young adults that strive to overcome everyday obstacles is one of the many reasons why I love being a teacher. The best part is that I get to be a part of their life journey and serve as a role model that inspires them personally, professionally, and academically.

What made you want to teach?

My passion for French was first ignited in high school. French was by far my favorite subject. Everyday I looked forward to French class even though it was certainly not the easiest subject for me. I found that French truly intrigued me because I was always learning something new about the language, francophone world, and even about my own language and culture. French enabled me to develop a profound respect for other cultures, perspectives, and individuals which are quite different from myself. Once in college, I continued my studies as a French major meeting phenomenal professors at Ohio University. After taking Dr. Dominique Duvert’s classes my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, she encouraged me to fulfill my dream of studying abroad. Once abroad, I fell in love with exchanging my own culture and language with my host family and others in the francophone community. During that year, I realized that I had overcome a multitude of environmental, personal, and social disadvantages. In spite of these disadvantages, I had accomplished and experienced more than the average nineteen year old. I have an immense gratitude for Debbie McCorkle, my high school teacher, and Dominique, because their faith in me, as a young student, empowered me to overcome these disadvantages which enabled me to succeed personally and professionally in not just chasing my wildest dreams, but living them. Truth be told that one teacher can inspire, empower, and impact hundreds of lives… so imagine what two or three inspiring teachers could do. I know this for a fact because without meeting Debbie and Dominique my life, career, and dreams would not be the same as they are today. With my profound love for the French language and francophone culture, and ambition to inspire young students I knew without a doubt that teaching was my calling.

Who has had the biggest impact on your teaching and why?

My teacher, Debbie McCorkle, became and still is one of my biggest role models. She is a ray of sunshine in the classroom and in so many lives that inspire young students to not only have growth mindsets but to step outside of their own comfort zones to discover the rewards of learning a foreign language. She is by far the most ambitious, dedicated, humble, and honest teacher that I know. She goes above and beyond to ensure that her students are getting the best education-something they deserve. Knowing and working with Madame in high school, throughout college, and during my first two years of teaching, she has always seen the best qualities I possess; some for which I never give myself credit. Even then, she has always pushed me, guided me, and supported me in discovering myself, my potential and my passions. In college, I was not learning the most efficient methods of teaching, how to develop effective curriculum and assessments, and the significance of a proficiency based classroom versus a more traditional approach. Debbie willing stepped up to the plate to teach me what I needed to know and be able to do as a first year teacher. She assisted me in building my own curriculum, exposed me to professional development, involved me in professional networking, and most importantly, served as my mentor when my assigned mentors did not appropriately execute their own responsibilities to assist me during my first years as a teacher. Since high school, Debbie has had the biggest impact on my teaching career. She is my source of inspiration, support and drive in becoming a resilient teacher just like her.

What is a project or lesson in your classroom that you are really proud of?

Towards the end of last year, I did a unit with my French 2 students on planning, describing, and retelling the events of a vacation in Paris, France. It was finally the moment when my students and I were going to dive into understanding and utilizing the past tense. After collaborating with Debbie, she described how she incorporated the present, future and past tense within the same unit. I took a gamble at using her idea of incorporating all three tenses in the same unit. It was the first time all year that I was able to backwards design an entire unit for French 2. This unit covered several new topics such as attractions in Paris, lodging, travel reservations, the airport and train station. In addition, I was able to recycle nearly all the units that the students have studied since the beginning of French 1. Throughout the unit, I used authentic resources that supported student driven learning. In addition, we rearranged and decorated the room, role played, and utilized technology to make students interpersonal communication as authentic as possible. At the end of the unit, the students’ presentational writing, interpersonal speaking, and written comprehension were assessed incorporating all tenses and topics. I am really proud of this unit because it was the first time that I was able to successfully create an entire unit of my own using only authentic resources and very minimal direct instruction. In addition, this unit pushed my students to show me and themselves what they were capable of producing in French.

What advice do you have for new teachers?

I have only been teaching for two years, but these are the three biggest pieces of advice that I have for new teachers. First, we all have lives outside of work, even students. Finding a balance between school and personal time is a bear. It is easy to spend several hours outside of school planning, creating materials and simply stressing yourself out about school. I have found that sometimes we take simplicity for granted. Students do not need bedazzled, theatrical performances, nor complex instruction to achieve what they need to know and to be able to do by the end of class. So, develop explicit goals pertaining to what the students need to know and should be able to do by the end of class. Then utilise simplistic but authentic resources and activities that are efficient and effective.

Second, establishing a routine and limitations for yourself is crucial in avoiding burn out. For example, allow yourself two hours after school to grade or prepare the next day’s lessons, then go home. If you didn’t finish grading or preparing the lessons, that is okay because it will all still be there the next day! Go home and do something for yourself which is not related to work or school. If you do not, I guarantee you will burn out fairly quickly. We also need to keep in mind that our students have lives outside of school. Yes, sports and clubs are extracurricular activities and academics come first, but that doesn’t mean that we need to assign excessive amounts of homework everyday of the week, on the weekends or during special occasions such as school dances when we all know that our students are not going to productively complete the assigned work. I am not saying teachers should never assign homework, but we should be assigning homework when it is meaningful and necessary.

Third, take time to build a positive rapport with your students. I have seen and experienced myself as a student and an educator the immense shift in student productivity, engagement, and mindset when a teacher has a positive and respectful rapport with their students. To be honest, what students truly care about is a teacher that is articulate, proactive, down to earth and responsive to their education and their lives. Being articulate and consistent with directions, routines, and classroom expectations builds a strong sense of structure and accountability. Structure and routines in the classroom help to eliminate undesired distractions and assists students in understanding what is precisely expected of them. Incorporating accountability in the classroom means holding yourself and the students accountable for actions, decisions and behaviors when they do not meet the expectations. We all make mistakes and sometimes fall short of expectations ourselves, so do not be afraid to admit when you, as the teacher, make a mistake. Students like to know that teachers are just humans after all. This also models for our students to be accountable for themselves. Time is very precious to us all, and when we take the time to build a positive rapport with our students not only will they show you more respect but they will be more willing to work, to be engaged and even to be risk takers in your classroom.

This will also help you in becoming more responsive to your students which enables you to adapt daily lessons and assessment when necessary to maintain a positive and productive classroom environment.

Finally, networking is how you will find the support that every new educator needs at some point in time. As difficult as it is for some, get out of your classroom and meet other staff members in your school. This does not just include teachers, but the office staff, cafeteria staff, tech staff, and the janitorial staff are all phenomenal resources that will take the time to answer your questions and give you a helping hand. In addition, get involved in professional development at the local, state, and national level. Take the time to attend these conferences, meet other teachers of your discipline, and begin building your professional network. My network of educators have tremendously helped me during my two years of teaching. I learned quickly that I had to advocate for my own professional needs, my equality, and my students. The educators of my professional network were the individuals that gave me the guidance and support that I needed in order to advocate for myself and my students.

The OFLA Beginning Teacher committee has created a Facebook group “OFLA Beginning Teachers” to share articles, answer questions, and brainstorm ideas. If you know of any new world language teachers, please encourage them to join. Our committee is also organizing resource swap meets throughout the state. Our next 2 events are listed below, but more will be added and advertised via the Facebook page and google group.

Northeast Ohio:
Saturday, November 9 at 10 am
Panera
790 Arlington Ridge Ste 201, Akron, OH 44319

Southern Ohio:
Saturday, October 12 at 10:30
Paper City Coffee
47 South Paint Street, Chillicothe, Ohio 45601