An Interview With...
What were your favorite subjects in school?
My favorite subject was always English, now called Language Arts in schools. I absolutely loved all my elementary school teachers and even kept in contact with them through letter writing after I got out of junior high. I think my favorite teacher was Mrs. Chris Desmond in high school. She was both a language arts teacher and a journalism teacher. I became the editor of my high school newspaper.
What were your favorite activities as a child?
I grew up in a VERY small town outside Cincinnati, Ohio, called Miami Heights. Probably my favorite two activities were reading and sewing. My mother made all our clothes until we got into junior high and my two sisters and I started sewing ourselves. I read hundreds of books and always dreamed of moving on to "bigger and better" things. We only took a few vacations while growing up, however, I experienced so many new and exciting locals through books. I knew that some day, I'd see some of those places. My husband and I graduated from college in 1982 determined to move west, which is why we live in California now. We both had the same dream of "seeing the world", which is exactly what we've been trying to do for our 25 years of marriage.
Where have you lived or traveled to as an adult? Do you speak any other languages?
We've been to Hawaii twice, Cabo San Lucas twice, England, Scotland, Norway, Washington D.C., New York and all the states that border California at least twice. This summer we're going to France with our daughters.
I spoke Spanish in college and for awhile wanted to become a bilingual education teacher. However, that just didn't seem to be in the cards. I changed over to Secondary Education with a minor in journalism. Although I never mastered Spanish I did master another language: Sign Language. A year after our second daughter was born, we found out she was profoundly deaf. My husband and I started teaching ourselves sign language literally the next day, and then took classes. I became quite fluent and while my daughter attended California School for the Deaf, Riverside, I immersed myself in that culture. Since then, my daughter has had a unique operation that has allowed her to hear some and she and we have lost a lot of the sign language. In a pinch though, I can still sign enough to get by with a deaf person.
What did you dream you would grow up to be? Did you realize any of those early dreams?
From second grade I knew I would be a school teacher. I taught for 12 years before taking a break to become a full time mom. Now my girls are in high school which is what made me want to seek the new position that I have now.
What were your least favorite or most difficult subjects?
I had lots of trouble in Math in high school and college. In high school, I would have my dad or friends help me and in college my husband, the math wiz, came to my defense. They say not to tell children that girls have trouble with math. I've tried very hard to not do that. I'm the writing expert in the family and my husband has become the math expert.
What path did you take to your present career?
I taught in three different school districts for a total of 12 years. All of the positions were in junior highs until my last year teaching in a high school. I was in my mid 20's when I first started teaching and that was a real wake up call. Teaching is VERY time consuming and challenging. My first teaching job was in Burbank, CA. I was 24, only living in CA for two months. It was a huge culture shock.
If someone had told me when I was growing up that someday I would be the director of a museum, I would have thought they were crazy, but the path really isn't such a stretch. I taught for 12 years then wanted to spend more time with my daughters who were in elementary school. I had just finished a VERY trying year as a senior high school teacher and newspaper advisor and my husband suggested that I take some time off. I jumped out of a full time job into volunteering at both their schools dozens of hours each week. This helped lead me to where I am today. I had to address big groups of people, run PTAs with budgets of $100,000 and meet lots and lots of people. When (six years after quitting full time teaching) I decided I was bored and wanted to get back into the work force, I contacted many of those people I had met and asked them for suggestions. [I decided I didn't want to teacher full time, but wanted to do something with children and something to help the community.] One of the principals of my daughter's school suggested I get in touch with Bud Gordon who owned a Toyota Dealership here in Corona, California. She said he always seemed to be doing something in the community and maybe he needed someone with my teacher/PTA background. It was one of those "being at the right place at the right time" scenarios. Bud was looking for a teacher to help with his museum and I was looking for a "community liaison" job. Perfect match! I have now become the Education Director of Quality West Wing over the past two years.
Why did you take time off from teaching?
I originally took a year off after my youngest daughter was identified as deaf. We felt I needed to work with her to develop her sign language. After that, I did go back to teaching, but my heart wasn't in it as it had been in the early years. I realized that my first priority should be my two children and not, necessarily, the children in my junior high school. One day my oldest daughter asked for help with a project and I told her I couldn't help, because I was grading papers and writing lesson plans for my students. She said something like, "You never have time for me, you're always busy with your students." That really made me think about where my priorities were. There would be days and days that I would just sit after dinner grading papers and essays. I look at teachers now that I know have taught for twenty and thirty years, I and I truly don't know how they do it. Teaching is an extremely demanding, time consuming job and I take my hat off to those who manage it for dozens of years.
How can parents help their own children, and lighten the load of teachers?
Some schools require parents to volunteer at school. I would love to see our elementary schools go to that. I have found, both as a teacher and a parent, that the more a parent is involved in their child's school, the better the child does. As a parent, I volunteered (even when I was working full time) to cut papers, etc. in the evenings at my home to help teachers with their preparations. Just think if every parent did this. Teachers would LOVE it usually. However, I have seen some parents that were more of a hindrance than a help in the classroom. It would take a savvy teacher to be able to decide that and make the most of the volunteer hours.
What is the purpose of "homework"?
Homework helps students do one of two things: refocus on the lesson taught in class that day or prepare for something being taught the next day. Here in California, there is such a strong emphasis on what teachers HAVE to get taught by the end of each school year, that it can't all be accomplished in class. Outside homework is a must.
How have technology and the Internet helped and/or hurt student learning?
Computers and the Internet have made all of our lives easier. HOWEVER, I think it has taken away from good ole' research. Ask a child how to find information and they will say go to Google or Yahoo search. YIKES!! What every happened to going into the stacks of a library and ferreting out the perfect passage or the perfect data that will prove your thesis. I, actually, use to love that. It always felt like a scavenger hunt to me and I would win when I found the information. I wish my children had to do that. I don't know if anyone will ever do that again though. And yes, I use computer searches now, myself and remember the good ole' days. Of course, those of us of a certain age remember finding the right book FINALLY in the school library, to find that some numbskull had ripped out the page we needed. So much for nostalgia.
If you could relive your life, would you choose your present career path or would you like to try something different?
I've thought about this many times in my life. I was sure from the time I was in second grade that I wanted to be a teacher. So, therefore, I had to do that. Even when in high school I became completely engrossed in journalism and my high school newspaper (I won an award and wrote a couple articles for the Cincinnati Enquirer), I still knew I would be a teacher. If I had just let myself rethink that, I'm absolutely sure that I would have gone into the communications field. My dream job: a reporter for the New York Times reporting from the White House. My reality dream job, a feature reporter for a small town newspaper. Over the years, I've written quite a number of articles for school, softball league and Quality Toyota newsletters.
As a teacher from a language arts background, can you share something about reading for pleasure and learning?
Reading has two advantages. One, reading can take you anywhere in the world. It's like space travel, you can go backward, forward, into another country, etc. As a child living in a very small town in Ohio, I desperately wanted to learn about other ways of life. I couldn't do that when I was young unless I did it through books. Since those young years, I have been able to visit some of those places I only dreamed (and read) about. Two, reading gives you vocabulary and syntax that you would never use with your friends and/or in school. My youngest daughter, who is deaf, read TONS of books from 1st grade on. Her teachers are convinced that because she read sooooo much she was able to far exceed the vocabulary of most deaf teenagers and she understood cliches, coloqualisms, etc. that most deaf teenagers don't. My husband assigned Dr. Seuss books to her, because they were so silly and used phrases that most hearing children understand. We see other deaf children that do not have the same comprehension she does and I truly believe it is from all the reading. She still continues to read one or two books a week. Her favorite present is a gift card to Barnes and Noble.
Do you believe learning other languages benefits students?
I think it's wonderful that students in high school have to take a foreign language. So many students today don't travel with their parents and unless they really try, they will never learn about other people and cultures. When I started learning American Sign Language, I really didn't know that deaf folks have a "culture" all their own. That was an eye opener. ASL is considered a real language which most people don't realize. Some high schools will even let students take ASL classes to fulfill their foreign language requirement. I think learning about other people and their ways of life make us all more tolerant of one another.
What do you think about the proliferation of language short-cuts in IMs and emails that is invading written correspondence?
I hate the email forms today. When I write, I usually use standard English, although most don't. I see the shortcuts as a problem down the line with students' writing. I find it very distracting to read emails with lots and lots of misspelled words, etc.
Do you have a favorite quote (or a favorite person) that inspires you? How and why does it it/he/she inspire you?
Because I chose to leave the Cincinnati area, marry young and begin a life on the other side of the country.
The following people inspire me: Abraham Lincoln. Self taught. He always reminds me that learning doesn't just happen in a classroom. Eleanor Roosevelt. She was so determined and strong. In a different century, SHE would have been the president. Dana Jaggers, my youngest daughter. She took being born deaf and turned it into a positive, assertive personality letting nothing stand in her way.
- 6 April 2005
6 April 2005
© 2005 - Imagiverse Educational Consortium