Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! – Claire Cole
Editor’s note: As part of our celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we are highlighting a few outstanding educators from classrooms across the state. We thank all teachers for their dedicated work with Iowa’s students this past year.
Today’s Q&A session spotlight features Knoxville Community School District teacher Claire Cole. Cole has six years of experience as an educator and currently teaches English Language Arts for seventh graders at Knoxville Middle School. In between her class and daily activities with students, Cole caught up with the Iowa Department of Education to share her thoughts on teaching in Iowa and how she helps students find success.
Why are you passionate about teaching?
My passion for teaching stems from the fact that knowledge truly is power, and my desire for each of my students is to attain the confidence, perspective and voice that knowledge affords them. I hope as students navigate the content of our class, they leave feeling more empowered in their ability to think critically about the world around them and advocate for themselves and their passions.
What do you think are the keys to a student’s success and how do you help foster that?
Student success is founded in their intrinsic desire to learn and grow. By explaining the “why” behind what we are doing, creating learning experiences that are relevant and meaningful to students’ lives, giving students autonomy over elements of their learning experience and emphasizing the notion that learning is not necessarily a linear process – and that I will be there to support them as they navigate the challenges that the year may hold – I have found success in fostering this desire.
Relationships are also imperative to a student’s success. I strive to show my students that I value them as individuals. I connect with them through daily conversations, attend their extracurricular events as I am able and seek to understand what is important to them.
Over the years, how have you grown as an educator?
Thinking back to my first years teaching, I have certainly grown as an educator. I have become more privy to the intricacies of what makes each day flow smoothly for students and myself. I have done a great deal of learning surrounding trauma-informed teaching practices with the hope that I am better equipped to meet each student where they are at when they come to school each day.
I certainly still have much to learn and will strive to do so throughout my tenure. I have the learning opportunities I have been afforded, my colleagues and students to thank for the growth that I have undergone thus far.
What opportunities do you see in the next few years in education?
In my opinion, one of the biggest opportunities moving forward in the world of education would be to support the mental health needs of students in more all-encompassing ways. Although we have made great strides in this realm as of late, I believe there is more we have to offer, as supporting students in these ways will not only improve quality of education but also quality of life for our students.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Mrs. Tschida, my high school social studies teacher at Pequot Lakes High School in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, was my favorite teacher for so many reasons. She was incredibly warm, welcoming and kind to all she encountered. She was very knowledgeable in her content area and created interesting and meaningful learning experiences for her students. Overall, you could just sense how much she cared and that made all the difference.