When I was in 5th grade my grandfather helped me build a working radio from scratch as part of a science project. This task was not easy. I found the design in a book, and we gathered the materials needed to build. Unfortunately, the first design did not work. We had to research beyond my initial source and gather more materials to improve the design. I often think about this project when I am asked about why I teach. Looking back at the patience and resolve my grandfather modeled, I realize I was surrounded in my youth by family members whose spiritual gift was teaching even though it was not their profession.
I think I always knew I wanted to teach because I was surrounded by teachers. Characteristics such as curiosity, determination, and a love for learning were instilled by individuals such as my grandparents, my mother, and a special Great Aunt who taught me to write and read letters long before they were introduced in preschool.
The radio I built with my grandfather has also inspired the route I chose for teaching. Upon completion of my degree, I had the opportunity to begin my teaching career in a gifted education classroom. Of course, I jumped at the chance excited by the prospect of working with 5th and 6th grade students on critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity skills, the very skills that my family taught me were the keys to success. For seventeen and a half years I put into practice the patience and resolve I saw modeled by my grandfather to facilitate educational projects that challenged students to think like researchers, authors, explorers, civic leaders, stock brokers, scientists, artists, inventors, engineers, and computer programmers.
In 2017, the media specialist position at my school was open. I knew our library program had great potential as an opportunity to challenge ALL of our 6th grade students to practice critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. I also knew our library space needed some serious love and attention through the updating of the space and the updating of the material that would inspire students to love reading and learning.
In January 2018, I became a Media Specialist transitioning our library to a Learning Center serving 500+ students weekly during their reading or science classes. I planned and taught instruction that challenged students to be active digital citizens, researchers, critical thinkers, problem solvers, computer programmers, engineers, and creators. I started a STEM in the Morning club that meets daily in the Learning Center’s “Think Tank” to complete STEM challenges utilizing littleBits electronic engineering tools. I wrote and received grants to buy enough of these STEM tools for all students to use. I also wrote and received grants to improve our reading selection to address the curiosities and needs of our students. In 2 short years, our Learning Center’s metamorphosis from a library to a space that fosters real world applicable thinking and creativity has been the most exciting part of my career.
Keeping students engaged by learning things that are relevant to them is a huge motivation to continue teaching. No other feeling is more rewarding than seeing and hearing a student excited about learning! As a Media Specialist I also serve in a technology support role to teachers in my school and district. I am motivated to help others because I know supporting ALL teachers can improve education for ALL students!
Laura Sheffield, NBCT
Milam Elementary School
Tupelo Public School District