by Della Hedge/Staff Writer
Photo Caption: Ms. Kathleen Burke, Ms. Emily Weaver, and Ms. Courtney Majors are ready to start the day with their students.
“My biggest motivation is the students’ success,” functional academic teacher Ms. Emily Weaver said. She has always wanted to be a teacher; she was pushed to shadow a life skills teacher in high school and she knew from the minute she walked in, “I wanted to make an impact in the lives of those with disabilities.”
“My students are my WHY. My students are the reason I wake up each morning and come to work with a smile on my face. My students are my biggest motivation to be the best teacher I can be,” Weaver said. She can feel the difference she makes every day in her classroom. Even if it’s little things like a student asking for help for the first time or independently following their schedule. “I specifically love being able to experience when students are able to generalize a skill that was taught in class and be able to use that skill in the community,” she said. She thrives on seeing students’ successes. That’s the main thing that keeps Ms. Weaver going.
She thinks that building relationships with the parents as well is one of the most important things in working with students. “The relationship that you build, not just with students but with their families (is important),” she said. She values her students’ families and wants to make sure that the students’ best interest is in mind.
The effects of the COVID pandemic, especially virtual learning through technology, hit Ms. Weaver’s classroom positively and negatively. “The amount of time on technology and knowledge of supports that we have using technology has tremendously increased. I also miss using paper and pencils as well.” She has started again with the paper and pencil this year, as she eases her students back to pre-pandemic conditions. She also mentioned that the communication and engagement has decreased tremendously. “It appears that some students do not have interest in communicating and engaging with others as much as before COVID occurred,” she said.
Ms. Weaver had many dreams and goals for her classroom. One of her goals is to focus on the end of high school. She has a lot of students graduating this year and she has to prepare them for the real world. Everyone’s life after high school is different and Ms.Weaver has to prepare them for whatever they will do. “Life after high school can look different for many people and figuring out what it looks like for each student is important as they go through high school,” Ms. Weaver said.
Ms. Courtney Majors, one of Ms. Weaver’s co-teachers, has a very similar approach. They both keep going because of their students. “My biggest motivation is my students. I want to see them succeed and become the most successful and independent individuals they can be,” Ms. Majors said.
Last year was Ms. Major’s first year in the classroom. She started during COVID and she persevered. “Starting to teach during COVID has made me a better and more adaptable teacher,” she said. She had to adapt and make it through the year, she said.
With her being a brand new teacher, reaching her goals is so important. She wants to focus on self-improvement to better connect with her students. “The main goal for this year is to continue forming relationships with my students and improving myself to be the best teacher I can be,” she said.
Ms. Kathleen Burke is another functional academics teacher who co-teaches with Ms. Weaver and Ms. Majors. Ms. Burke is also a co-sponsor with Ms. Weaver with a club called Peer Pals, formerly known as Best Buddies.
“My biggest motivation to keep moving forward each day are the ladies whom I share teaching responsibilities with. We share ideas, support each other, and just have a lot of fun together doing our job,” Ms. Burke said. She keeps going for her co-workers. She shares a great deal of her life with them; she strives to be the best because of them.
“The students and daily experiences are definitely the best part of my job. I get to be involved in students’ journeys from freshman year through senior year. This is not something all teachers get to experience. This can make it even more difficult to say goodbye, but also more rewarding to see students graduate,” Ms. Burke said. She gets to see her students grow and leave. She gets to prepare them for the real world, and she loves that part of her job.
All three teachers keep going for their students; they thrive under their students’ success. Many can agree, that is what makes a good teacher. If you have the opportunity to get to know them or their students, as you can tell from their positive comments, it will be a positive experience.