Dawson Elementary School's Dominique Donaldson was awarded the Muscogee County School District's 2013 Outstanding First-Year Teacher award. Here she shares some of her first-year experience with her readers.
As an educator at Dawson Elementary School, you received the Muscogee County School District's 2013 Outstanding First-Year Teacher award. What does the award mean to you?
Receiving the Muscogee County School District's 2013 Outstanding First-Year Teacher award means that all of the countless nights of working until 1 a.m., my connections with students, staff and parents, and my passion and commitment to teaching the students didn't go unnoticed. The award lets me know that someone was paying attention to the impact and the difference that I was making with the students. Receiving the award also confirms that I have a great teaching foundation from which I can continue to grow and build upon in order to make an impact on students and families to help close the achievement gap.
What surprised you most during your first year as a teacher?
What surprised me most during my first year of teaching was how demanding being a teacher is, how physically and emotionally exhausted I was during the school year and how much work I was doing during the holidays. There was never enough time in the workday to teach and complete all of the never-ending paperwork.
As a learning specialist, how do you approach exceptional-education students' vast variety of learning styles?
As an exceptional education teacher, engaging students and differentiating instruction are requirements when developing students toward achieving their learning goals. My approach to my students' vast variety of learning styles includes getting to know my students' interests, what motivates them to learn and providing them with the best way for them to demonstrate mastery of academic concepts and standards. By providing differentiated instructional strategies, differentiated assessments, real-life connections and high-interest activities, I am able to keep students engaged and motivated to reach their goals.
To accommodate different learning styles, I provide different mediums and resources for learning. For visual learners, information is presented in print, with visual presentations on the Smart Board. For auditory learners, I provide Brain Pop videos, Learn Zillion videos, Khan Academy videos, Flocabulary high interest rap songs, oral reading and working problems aloud. For tactile learners, manipulatives are used and for the kinesthetic learner, activities with movement are included in teaching strategies -- such as Geometry Simon Says where students use their body parts to mimic different geometric figures.
To accommodate interests and motivation levels, I allow students to work on different learning stations of choice for standards' practice. Learning stations include the computer station, Take it to Your Seat activities, folder games, listening station, and independent seat work.
Job: Learning specialist/exceptional education teacher
Hometown: New Orleans, La.
Current home: Columbus
Education: Georgia Teaching Fellows; BBA, Business Administration with a minor in marketing
Favorite book: "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman
Favorite movie: Childhood -- "The NeverEnding Story"; Adult -- "The Departed"
Favorite quote: "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe