Happy Teachers Appreciation Week! - Tami Cottrell
Editor’s note: It is National Teacher Appreciation Week. As part of the celebration, we profiled teachers throughout the state. Here’s one:
Tami Cottrell, Clinton Community School District
- Grade level taught: I teach 10th through 12th grade as well as the concurrent enrollment program.
- Subjects taught: Health sciences, medical careers
- How many years have you been teaching: I have taught for 14 years.
Why are you passionate about teaching?
My licensure as a CTE teacher came because I was a health-care professional. I am a chiropractor by trade and am passionate about health care. It was a good transition into education as I get to help students know more about their health and to be better health-care consumers. Teaching a health science lets me share my clinical experience and passion with the students, who may be interested in that career path.
What have you learned during the past year teaching during the pandemic?
I teach health sciences, so it has been a struggle. It has limited our opportunities like job shadowing and having guest speakers, but it has made me better prepare students for different challenges that may come up in life. It has opened dialogue and conversations on what’s working and what isn’t. It has opened doors to communication and has also provided good practice to learn on your feet, which applies to any career.
What do you think are keys to a student’s success and how do you help foster that?
One of the main things is adaptability. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You have to know what your passion is, what your abilities are and how far you are willing to push yourself. And you don’t have to be the smartest, but you have to be able to go with the flow and learn from your failures. If one door closes, look for other opportunities. If you want something bad enough, you will figure out how to get there. We discuss that their life goals may change several times, and it is okay as long as they make informed decisions. Informed decisions are important for any decision, whether it is health care or a career path.
Over the years, how have you grown as an educator?
Since I came from business and industry, I had a particular mindset that teaching was simply preparing students for an experience similar to mine – a career in health care. While academics and standards are important, I’m more interested in building relationships with the students and being their advocate. Those make the biggest impact with my students. Even if they don’t go into a health-care career, those things, being a positive advocate, are invaluable.
What opportunities do you see in the next few years in education?
Especially in my area of CTE, there are many opportunities and a huge need for instructors in all of the CTE courses. It is a big push for the future. We talk about the skills gap and opportunities that will come up, and we need to excite students in these areas. One of the changes we see is a lot of interest but not enough instructors available for these things.
I think we’ll also see a huge increase in skilled trades. There are a lot of students choosing non-traditional paths and looking to CTE programs. We really have to support and promote that as a great option for their futures.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
My favorite educator, Dr. Maxine McMullen, was a part of the chiropractor graduate program and taught chiropractic and obstetrics. She was so inspiring and an important part of my educational journey. She was very knowledgeable but also positive. She was a classroom cheerleader.
My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Franz, is also a favorite. He was a very gruff, demanding teacher who expected a lot of his students. To put it in perspective, he taught us German – on his own accord in fifth grade – because he thought it was important for us to be multi-lingual. I can remember struggling in his class and the hours upon hours of work he would have us do. Most vividly, I remember how he told us he was proud of us. He set the bar high for us, but he also praised our successes.
Finally, I also consider my colleague in the CTE program, Lisa Toppert, as one of my role models in teaching. She teaches culinary arts and has a diverse background in education. She is a veteran teacher and when I watch her in the classroom, it makes me want to be a better educator. She is a role model and inspiration for me every day.
All of these educators share the same quality – high expectations in a caring environment.