I had the opportunity to interview Debb McDonnell, a teacher at James M. Hill Memorial High School, where she has been teaching for 4 years now. She began teaching English and Math, and now, has moved around a bit and currently teaches Culinary Technology (grades 10-12) and has continued teaching Math at the grade 9 level.
Q: When starting out as a new teacher what type of teacher did you want to become?
A: “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. At a young age, I was given some tough circumstances and a couple of teachers in my elementary school (and in high school) took me under their wing and ever since, I vowed to try to give that feeling back through my own career. I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young adults by giving them reason to do their best and make them proud of what they accomplished. This goes for in and outside the classroom; I wanted to be able to give students a place to go and someone to go to when things seemed to be less than perfect.”
Q: How have you evolved into that teacher?
A: “Although I’m only in the 4th year of my career, I have been able to succeed in becoming the teacher I wanted to be. Of course, there is always room for improvement and things change on a day to day basis in teaching, but I am consistently reaping the benefits; watching a student excel in something they had no confidence in before, sharing in the excitement with a student when something great happened to them, or witnessing a student change for the better and seeing them make the right decisions. And to top it all off, getting to see the smile on a students’ face when they have done something that they can take pride in, knowing that I introduced them with the skills and provided them with the materials, then let them take the reins. Watching it all happen is certainly worth it. I’ve also been able to see the same outcomes outside the classroom; I’ve been involved in coaching Basketball, Field Hockey, and have been a teacher mentor for the Drama Club. Within these extra-curricular activities I’ve been able to experience the same benefits, but in a different light. Seeing a student excel on the field or on stage is just another reason for them to be proud of themselves and what they have been able to accomplish.”
Q: If your students were to describe you as a teacher, what would they say?
A: “I think they would first describe me as that teacher who makes a fool of herself at any time possible and maybe a little crazy at times. Otherwise, they would probably tell you that I like to make things fun, but know when to take things serious too. They know that I will let them have their independence and give them a hand when needed, but only after they give it a try. And, hopefully, they feel that their teacher is understanding, caring and wants to see them succeed in all aspects of their high school career and future.”
Q: How does the type of teacher you are in the classroom, compare to the person you are outside the classroom?
A: “I can definitely see a correlation between my life at work and outside of work; my friends on numerous occasions have caught me doing “teacher things” and are never shy to point it out. I also see the teacher in me come out when I’m with family; I have young nieces and nephews and when they are taking part in activities, I always get comments from my brother, sister and in-laws at how they would have never explained or showed something to their children the way I did it and that “it must be the teacher” in me. At work and outside of work, I treat people in the same way, I want to see the people around me happy and I want to see them succeed.”
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