Name: Monica Baird
School: Granada East
Grade: 5/6th Special Education
Classroom supplies: spiral notebooks, post-it notes, glue sticks, pencils, expo markers, index cards, crayons
One In A Million Feature Questions
How long have you been a teacher?
10 (embarking on 11) amazing years!
What made you get into the teaching profession?
Feeling unfulfilled in jobs that I was told were the “pinnacle of success” due to pay and growth prospects. I searched for the opportunity that would help me “Do What You Love, and You’ll Never Work Another Day in Your Life”. As this was the quote of the day as I grew up.
Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
This has always been an odd question for me, because I hear constantly “everyone has their it teacher”, unfortunately I do not. My academic years were not particularly memorable. I more remember my summers when I forced my brothers to go to “summer school”? But if I had to choose and an adult, as I embarked on my educational career. I was most inspired by a former teacher turned principal Ms. Sandy Kennedy. Although I did not know her as a teacher. Her leadership and guidance in my early career set the foundation for the teacher I am today.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
Most notably, the lack of funding. I always find it strange that we (as a state) can be one of the top 10 largest cities in the country and yet have such a struggle with organizing and supporting a stable education system.
How do these issues affect your day to day?
A lack of funding effects every aspect of my life both negatively and positively (I know strange huh?). Negatively because I do not get the things that I need to teach and develop lessons that are both creative and engaging. I have spent thousands of my own dollars buying the things that I need to simply do my job. Positively because necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Realizing this is a challenge for most educators I have be able to establish a small business to combat this challenge.
What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
LOL! You should ask my husband. To offset the hundreds that I spend every year??? Plainly – nothing.
How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
Most people do not know what it takes to be a teacher. I usually share, it is like being a mom on steroids. What does that mean? When you have children; you become a teacher, a caregiver, a doctor, an arbitrator, an event planner, an uber driver… to name only a few of our responsibilities. When you become a teacher; you become all of this and more to four plus sets of octuplets. In addition to all the everyday responsibilities which include being held responsible for each student’s academic growth, interacting with parents that at times expect more from you than they are willing to do themselves and an overall misunderstanding that we are simply just babysitters and not educating/laying the foundation for their future surgeons, politicians and somewhere throughout America our president – just saying.
Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
In part because teaching is mistakenly portrayed as a “less than” job. A job you do when you can’t do anything else. So, I believe, many people apply and pursue this career path with a misunderstanding of the demands and expectations. Yes, we are off during most holidays but we work more than 65 hours a week when we are there. Parent teacher conferences, for me, IEP’s, home visits, planning meetings, grant writing, field trip planning, continued education classes (that I must pay for and attend to keep my license after hours).
What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
A nap! Thankfully as I have said earlier, I have found what I absolutely love to do. So, it does not take much for me to refill when I am running low. A simple conversation with my husband, with my children. Time with my grandchildren laughing with a coworker about an event throughout our day are all simple ways I recharge. For me it doesn’t take much.
What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
I think simply volunteering. Not in the smallest, best or cutest classroom. In a classroom of our districts average size. In a classroom with 2/3 challenging students (who will be themselves no matter who visits). Truly understanding their children, their children’s needs and being a supportive partner in their child’s education. Knowing about homework, participating in meetings, attending events (not just field trips). And just simply understanding what we, as educator’s do.
What is your wish for Arizona’s children?
I wish that we as a state begin to understand the value of education and how it can change the landscape of our beautiful state. I wish for an educational system that evolves to meet the needs, wants, desires and passions of the students that it services. That we, as a state, begin to invest in our teachers, students and the infrastructures that will make learning personalized rather than standardized for everyone (teachers and students alike).
That as teachers we are allowed to embrace our creativity and nurture the natural curiosity of our students with an understanding that curiosity is the foundation of innovation. My wish is that in every classroom we are given the opportunity to foster the power of technology in profound and unimaginable ways that will help our students see the connections and relationships between school and the world around them. My wish is that we, as educators, are allowed to cultivate and explore the things our students are passionate about and that those interests include play. As our students grow, play may look different as they get older but play allows our students to experience joy, build self-confidence, release stress and tension and let their imaginations flow limitlessly. Play can keep our student’s minds fine-tuned for learning!
And last, I wish that we, as a state begin to understand that the great thing about learning is that it cannot be confined or held down. That we as teachers should be empowered to build, make, create, code and design just as much as we read, write and teach mathematical practices in our teaching. That fostering a love of learning is one of the greatest things we as teachers can instill upon or students and we as a state can support.
Who do people contact if they want to offer you additional support or where do people send supplies if they want to make a donation to your class?
Any supplies that I receive I plan to donate through my business to other teachers who may need them. So, supplies and offers of support can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements will be made for pick up of supplies and other offers of support.