Back in April, Learners Edge announced our first ever, Amazing Teacher Contest and we were overwhelmed with the nominations we received. Collectively, the nominations captured the essence of what makes a good teacher a great one — creative classroom teaching; connection with students for whom an exceptional adult role model makes all the difference; and an uncanny ability to push students beyond what they think possible. Because of these fantastic nominations, Learners Edge will profile inspiring teachers throughout the year – teachers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in unique and exceptional ways.
One such nomination was an Amazing Teacher Contest finalist, Paige Norman. Paige is a K-12 Special Education Teacher in the small rural town of Nondalton, Alaska. Read below to learn more about Paige and how she continuously goes above and beyond in making a difference in the lives of her students and her community.
Why did you become a teacher?
Growing up, I was taught by some incredible educators. Not only did they help me learn about school subjects, but they also helped me grow as a person. I wanted the chance to play a role like that in the life of even just one child.
My love for education has also been a big motivator as there is no better place to learn than in a school. Students have the ability to teach adults, and each other. I wanted to be able to provide children with an environment in which they can be the teachers and showcase their talents and understanding of school work and various life skills.
How long have you been teaching?
I just finished my third year of teaching.
What is the best teaching advice you could provide to new teachers?
Don’t be so hard on yourself! My first year of teaching contained so many moments of “I should have done this” or “Why didn’t I approach this like in another way…”, and it was exhausting. Don’t burn yourself out focusing on what you could have or should have done. Teaching is a career field in which you constantly have room to try new approaches or re-teach a lesson gone wrong. As long as you are doing your best, just keep looking forward and try not to dwell on the “what if’s” or “should have’s”!
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
My students! Even on their worst days or my worst, my kids can put a smile on my face. I am so appreciative of being able to watch a group of students learn and grow over the course of the school year. I especially enjoy that in my current setting that I get to “loop” with my students (meaning I get the same group of kids two or three years in a row) and pick up right where we left off at the start of each year.
What keeps you motivated as a teacher?
The “aha” moments. Seeing the look in a student’s eyes when they grasp a hard concept, do well on a test, or can explain something to another student is a priceless experience. The education field is an exhausting one and it is easy to get burnt out, but when you see a student really “get it” – whether it be in an academic subject or a life skill, it reminds me why I am in this career field and motivates me to continue doing my best to help my students succeed.
What is your most memorable student experience or favorite teaching moment?
Teaching in rural Alaska provides me with a lot of moments in which I am the student. My favorite moments are when my students get to be the teachers. One recent experience that comes to mind is when we had our annual “Culture Week” in which we spend the week focusing on the traditional values of the community in which I live. We spent a lot of the week working on tanning a moose hide, and I had tons of questions. Many of my students had done this before, so they were able to both show and tell me the answers to my questions. As I work with students who receive special education services, school doesn’t always come easily for them. However, in this moment they were masters of the subject and the ones teaching me all they knew about this topic. They LOVED it and so did I!
One of the primary reasons Paige was nominated for the Learners Edge Amazing Teacher contest was because of her tremendous compassion for her students which is illustrated by a few excerpts from her nomination below:
“Miss Paige amazes everyone with her compassion for her students. She is also passionate on giving students everything they need to succeed. She never stops at average she expects the best education for her students. And she pushes to get that best!”
“Miss Paige is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met. She constantly works on improving her students work with compassion. She comes up with creative ways to mask some of the special services she is providing. She works from home; she has students come into her home. She finds creative ways to help our students to learn life skills – cooking, cleaning, using money. Paige has even come up with a plan in which one of her students will work doing small chores for her after he graduates this year. She constantly puts her students and their needs first – for example when working with her preschool students she will ask if my high school students could take one or the other down because one of them needs alone time to cool off. She is constantly present whether she is at home or in the classroom it’s all about her students – the good, the bad, the ugly. For example, Miss Paige was fearful that we were going to lose some of our foster students, she signed herself up to take those girls if need be.
Thank you, Paige Norman, for illustrating what it takes to be an amazing teacher and for your outstanding commitment to teaching and to your students and congratulations on your selection as a 2017 Learners Edge Amazing Teacher runner-up!
If you haven’t heard about the Learners Edge Amazing Teacher Contest, you can learn all about it here!
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