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April Giddens

Teacher of the Year 2012 - Louisiana

1

Relationships are vital to the success of students in your classroom.

Treat each person with respect, and they return that respect. This works with committee members, state officials, colleges and universities, and 11 and 12 year olds! Students and adults want to know they are valued and appreciated. When you develop a meaningful connection with others, they will trust you. When you are trusted, students perform and colleagues feel valued. It begins with the way you speak and treat your students and co-workers. Always remember to show them how much you value their voice and opinions.

2

Learning is crucial to growth, both as a teacher and as a parent.

As a teacher, we should seek resources to improve our instructional practices, strategies to improve student learning, and knowledge for personal growth. Learning can be frustrating for some students. If a student has been working towards a goal, obstacles they encounter may encourage defeat and dissolution. This is when a teacher should adjust their teaching strategies, encourage, and refuse to let them fail. When students experience the power of challenge and learning, they grow both academically and in maturity. Learning creates opportunities. Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

3

Every person can be a change agent.

If you are unsure where to start your change, look for ways to improve your profession, classroom, and home. To improve my profession, I meet with colleagues and collaborate. I also meet with students. Students want to know I care about them, and by meeting with them at the beginning of the year, I show them that I care. This changes their path in my classroom for that year. A few months ago, I wrote a local news station in Louisiana to encourage them to recognize outstanding teachers in our area. After a few weeks with no response, I felt as if they were not interested. One month after writing that letter, I received a phone call requesting a meeting, and I eagerly attended it! At the meeting, they wanted to know what I felt they could do to elevate the profession. They obtained a sponsor and now are giving $500 to one teacher every week! This sponsor is going to donate $20,000 to educators in Louisiana over the next 10 months! It only takes one person, one letter, and you can make a difference.

4

King Solomon said, and my mother reminded me, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak, the wisdom is to know what time is right now.”

As both a mother of a teenage daughter, and teacher of adolescents, it is tempting to speak up, and often. Reminding each student of what they need to do, or for my daughter to clean her room, feels necessary, but listening is far more important. By listening, I show them that I love and care about what they have to say. If they have no one to listen to, they often feel isolated and devalued. I listen to the words that they say, the words they do not say but show with body language, and the words they write down on paper. After listening to my 14-year-old daughter, I have learned many things about classmates, the choices they are making, and the choices she is making. Listening gives you a clearer picture of the child and their needs. My most cherished moments are when my children and students say, “Thank you for listening.” Listening, to me, is one of the most powerful tools a teacher can have.

5

When you feel as if you’re lost, do not quit, do not give up, do not provide excuses – instead, provide hope.

As I’m teaching a difficult English concept, some students want to throw their hands up and quit within the first 5 minutes! It seems too difficult, it is beyond what they know and are comfortable with, and they do not like that. It is important that you have developed a relationship with that child and they know that you will make sure they understand it, and that you will not let them quit. Each year, I challenge my students to read 40 books in a year. This task seems unreachable to them when they begin my class. As time passes, they see that it is attainable. When we are finished, the students are so proud of themselves and what they had accomplished. What seemed to be an insurmountable task was completed, and the smiles on their faces said it all, they did it.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.

Biography

April Jessup Giddens, 2012 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, has been teaching for 17 years. She has enjoyed teaching 1st, 2nd, and for the last 12 years, 6th grade Reading and Language Arts. She currently teaches at the Natchitoches Magnet School in Natchitoches, Louisiana. April earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1996, and a Master’s degree in 1998. In 2007, she completed National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading/Language Arts. In 2011, she completed her Plus 30 degree. April is currently attending Walden University, working towards a doctorate degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.

April currently lives in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She is married to Mike and they have three children, Hannah, Timothy, and Emma.