‘I teach my students to care about themselves’ | TheUnion.com

‘I teach my students to care about themselves’

Following is the sixth installment in The Union’s series highlighting candidates for Nevada County’s teacher of the year and featuring excerpts from their applications.

Betsy Abrams

K-8 teacher

Twin Ridges Home Study Program

For me, teaching is a labor of love. I have been involved with teaching elementary and middle school children for the past 40 years in a wide variety of settings and programs. Whether it is a fifth-grade class in a windowless school in the middle of New York City’s Harlem district or fifth grade in a beautiful rural school district, for me it all comes down to the truth that children will not get excited about learning unless they have a teacher who both nurtures their spirit and stimulates their mind. The challenge for me is to figure out how to reach each individual child, and ignite a spark in them to really care about their job of becoming an educated person. I teach my students to care about themselves, their classmates, their family, their community and their planet.

I have discovered that validating and nurturing my students also increases their motivation to learn. I encourage all of my students to have high expectations for themselves and to passionately pursue their interests.

When I taught special education, I worked with many discouraged and frustrated children. One boy was passed along from grade to grade without ever completing the required curriculum. He was in 6th grade, and years behind in every academic area. His home life was chaotic and full of disruptions.

I was teaching a fourth grade math curriculum in a class of 4-7th graders. I gave the students the respect they deserved, and designed the class so they always had something to look forward to. The boy was going to be absent the day I was to bring in gram scales and weights.

He pleaded with me to postpone the class for a day so he could participate. This was a child who, at the beginning of the year, was disruptive and alienated from school.

It gave me great pleasure to witness him being excited about learning math and working in a cooperative group. …

I feel extremely lucky to have spent so many years of my life involved in the rich experience of being a teacher of children, as well as having the opportunity to work with other dedicated teachers.

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