Mother, Teacher, Leader: Empowering First-Graders for Life

Asha, a first grade teacherMeet Asha: 1st grade teacher and mother of two. Asha is going into her 15th year of teaching and has reached an exciting point in her career where the students she taught early on are graduating from high school. I asked Asha to reflect on her time as a teacher, what she has learned over the years and how she cultivates an empowering environment for her young students.

Called to Be a Teacher

Asha knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. She recalls playing School every day: ”We had a little chalkboard affixed to the wall and I would line up my dolls in little seats in front of me.”

Through babysitting and Bible school, Asha had several opportunities to work with young children, so it was no surprised when she declared Elementary Education as her major in college. “I enjoy the creative aspect of teaching, curriculum design and studying the theory behind developing strong thinkers,” she says. Working with 1st graders presents an exciting opportunity for her, given their natural wonder and curiosity.

Asha became a mother five years ago and now has two daughters. She never knew the impact motherhood would have on her teaching, but now has a new appreciation for her position as a mother and teacher. “Parents are their child’s first teachers, and I aim to make sure this is celebrated. I feel it is a partnership between home and school to ensure each child meets their individual goals. Being a mom has elevated this belief.”

From Classroom to Community

Although managing a class of six- and seven-year-olds can sometimes feel like a juggling act, Asha wants her students to “develop a genuine love of learning and to develop into respectful community members.” Her job isn’t to prepare her students for 2nd grade, she wants to help prepare them for life!

some of the tools first grade teachers use

Tools of the trade. Doesn’t this make you want to be a first-grader all over again?

Asha strives to create an environment that is engaging, purposeful and fun! She feels that teaching children about respect helps set the tone for them to feel comfortable “working cooperatively and developing a classroom culture where students can act as risk takers, deep thinkers and where all learners are truly respected.” She also plays to her students’ interests and has found they are more motivated when they are personally invested and excited to learn.

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that you have touched someone’s life far beyond the short nine months they are in your classroom.”

Recently, some of Asha’s first students started to graduate from high school. She was invited to a time capsule reunion and was able to visit with those students she knew so long ago.

“One boy came up to me and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ I did, of course. He said he wanted the opportunity to thank me in person. I was expecting to hear that he was going to thank me for teaching him how to read, or teaching him his math facts. [Instead] He thanked me for being there for him when his mother died unexpectedly during his fourth grade year. He went on to say he didn’t think he could have come out of hiding from everything if it wasn’t for my care and support. That was one of the moments that I realized just how powerful my job is.”

Over the years, Asha has received notes from parents and letters from graduates that touch upon their experiences in her classroom and how they have influenced their future hopes, dreams and accomplishments. Those are the moments that mean the most to her. “It’s an incredible feeling to know that you have touched someone’s life far beyond the short nine months they are in your classroom.”

a peek inside a first grade teachers classroomLessons Learned Along the Way

Asha acknowledges that the teaching field has changed quite a bit over the last 15 years. It can be very challenging at times. She is grateful to have found a career where she can directly impact someone’s life in a short period of time, continue to learn herself and find personal joy in her work.

Asha has three nuggets of advice for new teachers:

  1. Take it slow, take time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t.”
  2. Seek out a support system in your school. If you aren’t assigned a mentor, make time to collaborate with colleagues and work to create a culture that supports a true learning community.”
  3. Take time for yourself. It can be easy to consume yourself with work. You have to take time to nurture yourself so that you can be the best for your students.”

Asha sends a special ‘Thanks’ to her support system for helping her maintain a work-life balance. She is grateful that her daughters get to see firsthand how valuable education is and how important it is to find work that sparks your passion. “I love that as a mother, my daughters can see an example of this through my profession as an educator.”

When Asha isn’t teaching, she can be found spending time with her husband, Kevin, and two daughters, Anabelle and Lola. Asha loves traveling, experimenting with fashion and being a Barre3 newbie. At the end of a long day, you can find her listening to Josh Radin and enjoying a glass of rosé.

Cheers to Asha and all the other wonderful teachers out there! Our gratitude is never-ending.

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