Kathleen Ferguson

Teacher of the Year - New York


Belief is the foundation for all success.

Success is a process that begins deep within the recesses of each individual’s mind and within her heart. Before a person can even begin to walk towards a goal, there must be an inkling of hope, an inkling of belief that the journey will culminate in fruition. Belief is powerful. When you initiate belief, you attempt. When you sustain belief, you persevere. When you persistently believe, you achieve.


A sense of humor and your own personality are an essential part of every classroom.

I love to be funny with my kids. I love to see them laugh and smile. If my students are laughing, I feel like it opens their minds up to the next thing that I want to teach them. Laughing and smiling can also help diffuse a tense situation, and can help children feel more comfortable. Your classroom is their home and their whole world for the better part of a year, and so it should be filled with the laughter and joy of learning and working within a warm community.


Every child can and will learn.

Not just can learn, will learn. It is inevitable. As a teacher, you simply have to have the patience and stamina to guide them along the way, to facilitate the process in the way that suits them best, and to realize that learning sometimes happens in small steps instead of big ones. Children are little sponges who soak up everything you can pour in their direction. Trust in their capacity to move forward, and they will never disappoint you.


Teachers are professionals who deserve respect from each other, as well as the public they serve.

So, decree your degree! Teachers are highly trained professional individuals with specializations similar to many other professions. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we support each other as such through our words and our actions. I’ve learned that within the teaching community, there are many styles and methods and ways of teaching that work. The possibilities are almost endless! I was recently fortunate enough to attend the 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City. I heard top educators from nations all over the world talk about education and teachers. It was an amazing and enlightening experience! What impressed me most was that in every instance and every country it was agreed that teachers are professionals who deserve the utmost respect. I was filled with pride to be a teacher, and more determined than ever to help build an atmosphere of respect and professionalism in my own community, as well as our great country. I’ve also realized that oftentimes our profession is incredibly modest and humble. Yet, there needs to be a balance. Teachers must speak on behalf of other teachers in order to lift our profession in the eyes of the public. We must work relentlessly and in solidarity towards the support of education in our nation. So I say, decree your degree. Post your degree on your wall for your colleagues, your parents, your students, and the community to see. Let that visual reminder of your training hang proudly within your classrooms and offices, and let all who see be reminded that we ARE professionals, we ARE highly trained, and we ARE working towards the one and only future we have- our children.


Mistakes are steps towards success.

Mistakes are inevitable. I always tell my students that it is the mistakes you make that propel you forward. Perfection, though pleasant, is stagnant − it neither moves forward nor backwards, while mistakes motivate and teach like no other experience. Within the classroom, when you make a mistake on your work, that is the perfect opportunity to learn and grow through the guidance of a good teacher. I can think of no success or achievement I ever had that came immediately and without struggle. It is the process, the struggle that makes you grow.

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


Katie Ferguson loves teaching. She has been dedicated to the teaching profession since she joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School of Math, Science, Technology, and Invention as a first grade teacher in 1998. While there, Katie and her class were fortunate to have been presented some fantastic opportunities. In 2003-2004 Katie’s class participated in more than 10 videoconferences through Project VIEW. The videoconferences were with museums and institutes across the country such as the Buffalo Zoo and The Ocean Institute in California. Her work with videoconferencing was highlighted in a small excerpt in Teaching K-8, a magazine for education, the Daily Gazette, and in a case study by the Evaluation Consortium at the University at Albany. She was also awarded the Red Apple Quality of Life Award in 1998 and 1999.

In 2007, Katie joined the Jessie T. Zoller Elementary School staff as an integrated 2nd grade teacher where she still teaches today. At that time Zoller School was involved with the Charitable Leadership Foundation through a grant to support literacy. Her work with independent literacy centers has often been observed by teachers throughout her district. Her self-created materials, which are used to support literacy, have been shared with numerous teachers in both her building and throughout the district. In the summer of 2008, Katie and her colleagues worked together to lead a workshop on literacy centers for new schools joining the Charitable Leadership Foundation grant. She was also videotaped teaching a guided reading lesson for a DVD intended for a workshop for the administration.

Katie prides herself in individualizing instruction to meet the needs of her learners. In seeking to reach all of her students, she works in small groups as often as possible and will present the material in a variety of ways and a number of times so that each child has the opportunity to hear, see, and experience a new concept.  Katie enjoys creating materials to meet the specific needs of her students, from individual behavior charts to songs, chants, or cheers to help children learn new concepts.

She also believes that a strict, but caring environment is essential to learning both academic and life lessons. Using professional development offered by her district, Katie created her own unique, theme oriented classroom management plan in which every child will experience success and is held accountable for his or her own actions. This too has been adopted by various teachers throughout the district.

Katie believes she, and her students, owe her success in education to the collaboration her wonderful colleagues have given and the many professional development opportunities her district has offered her. In her 14 years in Schenectady, she has taken more than 25 professional development workshops. In May, 2010, Katie was awarded Teacher of the Year by the Schenectady City School District, which led to her applying for the New York State Teacher of the Year. She was selected as New York State Teacher of the Year 2012.

“Teaching is more than a profession to me. It is a way of life”. She believes that the children entrusted to her, no matter their background, will learn and be independent in her classroom.