May 8, 2023

Teacher Appreciation Week: Former Educators Reflect on Time in the Classroom

By Bellwether

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In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked members of our Academic and Program Strategy team — who collectively have decades of experience as teachers, school leaders, and district leaders — to reflect on their time as educators and how their experiences in the classroom shape their everyday work at Bellwether. 

Emily Shisler, senior consultant

Taught grades 2, 6, 9, 11, and 12 for 10 years;; mostly taught English III and AP English Literature. 

“There is nothing quite like being an overachiever type-A person who, at age 21, starts teaching 42 6th graders in reading only to realize, “Oh wow, I’m truly terrible at this.” In my time teaching, it was so humbling and important to struggle and try and adjust and practice and improve and keep on keeping on. 

Helping teenagers learn to love reading and writing is one of the real joys of my life — along with loving teenagers in general and how wonderfully rewarding and painful it is to be an important person in their life at such a pivotal time. I learned hard truths about my misguided white savior complex. I learned lessons about sharing learning with students and learning with and from the children I was entrusted to teach. I learned to absolutely love sharing book recommendations with teenagers. I learned the importance of a supportive school administration in empowering teachers to learn from each other and seek their own improvements. Oh, and teaching has also helped me be a better and more organized parent — using love and logic, clear expectations, and routines and procedures!”

Bill Durbin, partner

Taught grades 6-8 English Language Arts and Social Studies for eight years.

“Teaching is the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had. Teaching is humbling and forces you to consistently reflect on how your personality and comfort zone impact your classroom positively and negatively. Teaching taught me the importance of getting to know people well so you can best support each person where they are at and in ways that work specifically for them. Most importantly, teaching taught me that while you may have some bad days, you always have the next one to apply what you learned yesterday and be better today. 

I am so thankful for having the privilege of teaching my students over the years. Their successes today that I see on social media are so amazing. I love seeing that.” 

Anita Lawrence, senior consultant

Taught grades K-5 and 9-12 for 9 years.

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then teaching is the mother of innovation. Having spent close to 10 years in the classroom, I have learned to be creative in finding new ways to meet the diverse needs of students. Teaching also strengthened my critical thinking skills by requiring me to consider all aspects of an issue before making a decision. One of the most important lessons I learned that I still use today is to value people, whether they are children, clients, or colleagues — everyone brings something to the table and deserves to be heard.”

Monique Payton, senior consultant

Taught kindergarten and grade 2 for more than four years.

“I am a lifelong learner and educator. The greatest skills I learned from teaching that I continue to use in my career are effectively planning to communicate information and building strong relationships. I intentionally plan everything like a lesson, whether it’s facilitating a professional development session or training, leading a meeting, or coaching a leader. In every situation, setting an objective, identifying what mastery looks like for that objective, and planning aligned experiences to reach your intended outcomes has made me an effective leader, coach, and teacher.  

Building relationships has also been crucial in my career. My ultimate goal is to leave people and spaces better than I found them (and to become a better person in the process) and that is achieved through building connections with people. It is through relationships that people grow and learn, and this has been invaluable not only to my career, but also to my life.”

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