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New Teachers Tackle Palo Verde

by Andrew Ochoa, Features Editor

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Few people have as much impact on our future as teachers do. While far too many spend their lives focused on the hassles of the day-to-day, finding truly forward-thinking individuals is both rare and much needed. Being able to commit yourself to growing the minds of the often unwilling, indifferent youth takes patience, dedication, and, most importantly, empathy. It’s not a career for anyone less than exceptional; which is why there is no more inspiring role model for children than a great teacher, and why there is nothing more destructive than a terrible one.

Picture this kid with no idea what they’re going to do with their life, especially book smart-wise, with a specific, maybe even hidden passion. Their above average grades get them into a nice college, but they still can’t decide what they want their major to be so they pick something random, something they think could excel at, but have no true interest in. They move through their twenties, feeling as if something has been missing. No matter what this person does with their life, that same enthusiasm they had as a kid always seems to reappear in different places, in different forms, always drawing them back to it. This keeps happening, over and over, until that person finally embraces it and comes back to what they’ve always loved, and have always been meant for: passing on their passion to the youth.

For as specific and random as it may seem, this exact story seems be the same for the majority of educators. And it makes sense. Someone who is driven, yet knows what it is to feel lost. Someone who knows that deep down, everyone has something that we can be great at, yet also knows that it takes time and experience to find out what it is. Who better than this person to put in a classroom, to have build our future? Who better than this to help often reluctant, wandering kids find what they love?  

Laura Park
Ms. Bailey

You know, as a kid, I didn’t really have that clear cut goal that everyone else did. I always had my parents tell me, ‘Hey you should be a doctor, you should be a dentist, something that makes a lot of money,’ but it was just never for me.””

— Ms. Bailey

This is Ms. Bailey. Newly appointed ACT Prep teacher over at CSN. Preparing often disinterested students for a math-oriented—although very academically important—test proves itself a challenge, but one that Ms. Bailey is eager to confront.

“I know exactly how a lot of kids feel. I mean I didn’t know what I wanted to do my first year of college. I was undeclared, I didn’t have a major. So I completely understand if kids don’t know what they want to do, or where they want to go after high school,” she says.

Here we begin to get an insight into the mind of a teacher. Math isn’t for everyone, and with such a deep, ranging subject, it often takes time to find a particular area that you can excel at. A teacher aware of this path can only have more care for her subject and more ways to approach the topic. Ms. Bailey is new to Palo, but her excited attitude and long-journey here will certainly lead to a great run here, which means yet another excellent teacher for panthers to learn from.

 

“I remember, when I was a little kid, I would line up all my dolls in rows, and I would pretend to teach them. So

Laura Park
Ms. Chalker

teaching has always been my calling, I suppose,” remembered Ms. Chalker. A new algebra teacher not just to Palo, but to the profession in general, with only four years of experience, Ms. Chalker is still very much finding her form and methods of teaching to fit her specific style.

“I like to go watch other teachers and see what they do. I’ve gone to other schools and seen how they do things. I’ll take little ideas that I like and I’ll see if it works with my personality and teaching style. If I can make it work, I’ll keep it, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll scrap it. I’m always trying to evolve and try new things and improve,” she says.

This sort of attention to the craft is what separates the good from the great in terms of teaching. It seems to be yet another throughline of the truly caring, outstanding teachers; the study of their own craft. Because, of course, the most excellent of teachers never stop learning themselves. As a rather new teacher, Ms. Chalker is very much aware of this, and intends to keep her style fresh, for the benefit of all her students right here at Palo.

“I’m always analyzing what I’m doing and seeing where things can be improved and where kids need the most help,” says Chalker.

Laura Park
Ms. Broussard

“One reason I transferred to Palo was because I wanted to come with my son to high school, and because I needed a new challenge after middle school,” special education teacher Ms. Broussard said.

With nineteen years of teaching on her belt, Ms. Broussard is by no means inexperienced, yet with such a handle on her profession she feels the need to keep learning new ways of educating. One of the ways Ms. Broussard has kept sharp is by switching subjects. First being a middle school math teacher, to a middle school history teacher, to, most recently, a high school special ed teacher. A change which she has found especially rewarding and inspiring herself.

“The one main difference I see when working with children with learning challenges, is that they appreciate the help that you give them. When they learn something brand new, they kind of light up. Whereas, when I taught with non-special ed students, they kind of take for granted what they know. Sometimes, it’s hard to feel like you’re helping them. So it’s a lot more rewarding working with the special ed population at times,” said Ms. Broussard.

With such invested educators—eager to help—a message of appreciation and care for learning is something many students could learn from.

 

Finally, Mr. Isbell is Palo Verde’s newest choir teacher. Another veteran of his craft, with twenty-four years of

Laura Park
Mr. Isbell

experience, has always had a great care, in all aspects of his life, for one thing: music. The excitement of which he continues to pass on to all his students, and now, right here at Palo Verde.

“I went to the University of Arizona, I studied aerospace engineering for three years. Then, I changed my major to musical education and got my masters degree in conducting,” says Isbell.

Here, yet again, we see a teacher with a drastically different background from what they ended up doing.

“The further along I got with my aerospace major, the more I realized I’m more of a people person and more of an artist than I am an engineer,” says Isbell.

This hard turn in career goals is something that’s informed both  Mr. Isbell’s teaching style and outlook, becoming far more understanding of a wandering student, which has made him the invaluable teacher he is today.

 

 

After hearing the accounts of teachers, all with different amounts of experience, different areas of education, and different styles of teaching, it’s clear that we could all learn far more than just the subjects they teach from our teachers. With a strong sense of empathy, our educators approach our country’s youth with a sense of understanding and care, even when met with resistance.

For as many students who struggle with a sense of direction or are searching for their passion, there are just as many educators who’ve experienced the same, much like Mr. Isbell.

“My response to kids who don’t know what they want to do is that there’s time. There’s time for find that out.  And then I ask them, ‘What did you want to do when you were five?’ Because those interests we had when we were young really speaks to our interest and what our gifts are, I believe. Who we are is formed in those first five or six years. I think our dreams happen early,” he says.

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New Teachers Tackle Palo Verde