Wise Words

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“Find joy in your classroom. Even on the toughest and most trying days, a little laughter (even if it’s forced) will make a big difference for both you and your students.”

-Lisa Martinez, Secondary Section

“Be tough on whatever challenge may come your way as a teacher. Your struggles and pains are all worth it once you see the genuine love and care from your students. Remember that teaching, indeed, is the noblest profession.”

-Ada Dela Cruz

“Never stop learning. Learn from your peers. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from your students.”

-Amanda Holt, Middle Section

“Observe good teachers in action. Listen more than you speak. In a journal or on a device, take notes of good teachers’ methods, rituals, and habits. Learn how to organize everything—your clothes, food, time, everything! Be friendly. Smile. Cultivate healthy relationships and take very good care of yourself! Enjoy!”

-Lynn Daniel, Middle Section

“It scares me when I think of how many students go through a day, or even an entire week, without having a single personal one-on-one chat with a teacher. These kiddos are begging to be seen! Sometimes it’s through less-than-desirable behavior because some interaction is better than none. See them all!”

-Sara Tenan Gray

“Give the benefit of the doubt. Every time.”

-Kristin Ferderber

“We cannot love a book more than the child sitting next to us. Pick the right one, for the right reasons.”

-Christina Pepe, Secondary Section

“At the beginning and end of the day, our goal as teachers is to paint beautiful smiles on students’ faces. These are smiles of genuine appreciation and affirmation. After all, we all have that ability to touch the lives of our students. Always use it to THEIR advantage.”

-Arianne Perez

“Allow yourself to be vulnerable, for it is in vulnerability that we are able to learn and grow. You are not expected to always know everything, but we should reflect on our practice and build on it every year.”

-Carmen Nguyen

“Information is not knowledge, we have to teach our students to intellectually process information so that it becomes knowledge.”

-Marsha Harvey

“Embrace diversity in your classroom by getting to know each child individually. Learn as much as you can about them. And encourage them to be themselves. Empower students to be unique, to be themselves, to embrace others.”

-Valentina Gonzalez

“Preparation is everything. It pays for a teacher to come to the class fresh with ideas and activities ready to be consumed by the students. It gives the teacher that edge and confidence that they will be able to bring something new and interesting to the class—well thought-out ideas that are products of careful and joyful planning.”

-John Paul Dela Rosa

“Be kind to yourself, first-year teachers. Survive the best you can. Come back for your second year. It gets better, I promise!”

-Melissa Rusciani, Secondary Section

“Master your students before you address standards. When compassion becomes your content, the skills and materials you instruct will flow more naturally to your audience. You can’t be perfect or popular — those are empty pursuits. Do you remember your most effective teachers? Be one of those!”

-John Hayward, Secondary Section

“Student-teacher relationships can change a kid’s life for the better or worse. We need to emphasize this more. Your degrees stay on the wall; being a teacher who cares and uses your power to show respect stays in your kids’ hearts.”

-Rachel Emmerson

“Allow your classroom persona to be unique. Not goofy, just unique. Don’t try to be anybody else. Inauthenticity is a new teacher’s greatest enemy. Be the best you, and everything will be fine. Continue to grow personally, and you’ll grow as a teacher.”

-Gary Anderson, Secondary Section

“Be open with your students! Allow them to see who you are as a person; share with them your struggles and your celebrations. As English teachers, we have the luxury of TALK in our classrooms—take advantage of this to build real, lasting, and transformative relationships with your students. Turn your classroom into a FAMILY room and help your students discover who they are in the security of a home you’ve built with (and for) them.”

-Angela Salgy, Secondary Section

“Laugh often. Listen more. Learn together.”

-Gwendolyn Dean, Elementary Section

“Remember: no child wakes up in the morning hoping to fail. Somewhere, down inside, they want you to notice them. Help them. Smile at them. Love them.”

-Jennifer Wolfe, Middle Section

“Know your audience. Everything you teach should be culturally relevant and age-appropriate for your babies. Find ways to connect, every day, in every way! They will adore you for it, and your student’s outcomes will soar as a result of teaching that inspires, enlightens, and motivates them to achieve greater heights.”

-Latrese Younger

“Don’t do all of the talking! Nurture your students’ voices with your silence.”

-Kim Patrick

“Avoid gossip and criticism of others or work conditions. Instead, spend your ‘social energy’ and time with peers who have a collaborative, positive mindset.”

-Dr. Connie Williams

“Stay curious! Be a learner and model the joy of that learning for your students! As you do so, you will stay in touch with all that your students experience. This awareness will make you a much more effective educator and will strengthen your relationships with your students!”

-Nancy Wahl, Secondary Section

“To be an effective teacher build relationships with your students first. The nuts and bolts of teaching are important, but students don’t care if your lesson is flawless. They don’t care if you were a stellar student in college. Students want a teacher who cares about them and who is willing to stand by them through the turbulence of the school year. If students know you care about them as individuals, they will embrace the knowledge you bring into their lives.”

-Roy Smith, Secondary Section

“Remember you are teaching students, not a curriculum. Be responsive to them, not it.”

-Andy Schoenborn, Secondary Section

“Let the students teach you, too. They know so much more than we give them credit for . . . and they appreciate being heard.”

-Dorinda Grandbois

“We need to extend grace to ourselves as we develop as educators. We are lifelong learners who need to be reflective and willing to grow. We need to own that!”

-Heather Mann

“You can cover the standards and still create a culture of literacy in your room, though it might mean ‘modifying’ the curriculum. Sometimes it’s okay to just close your door and teach. Focus on what is best for the students, not what is best for administration or test scores.”

-Sarah Mulhern Gross

“Wear good, supportive shoes and have a sense of humor.”

-Christy Berry

“Exposure to authentic reading teaches students how to be better readers. There is no textbook, reading program, lecture I can give, or essay I can ask students to write, that elevates a student’s ability to read more demanding and complex text more than allowing them to read what they want.”

-Libby Bell

“Start each day, each lesson, each interaction with your students thinking, ‘My kids can.’ Don’t waste your energy on can’t.”

-Dana Clark, Elementary Section

“Look at student writing with a sense of wonder. When planning for learning, pass everything through the filter of what will serve them for a lifetime as a reader and writer. Take them seriously.”

-Heather Fletes, Elementary Section

“Talk to other teachers. This job can be very isolating, but if you reach out to other educators, not only will it help you troubleshoot the difficult job of teaching, but it will create a network of people who will nourish you and help you love this crazy, complicated, exhilarating, rewarding pursuit.”

-Jori Krulder, Secondary Section

“Help your students create a toolbox of skills! Then let them know what tools they have that already work, and show them how to enhance those tools to do even more incredible things!”

-Melissa-Ann Pero, Secondary Section

“1) Find a mentor and/or a therapist with whom you can vent, share, and process all that you are experiencing with your teaching: the good, the bad, all of it.
2) Take it one day at a time.
3) Take at least a few minutes each day to do something nice for yourself: a cup of tea, a hot shower, a phone call, etc.”

-Kathleen Stoker

“Work hard. Be humble. Care for others. Do not pretend to know it all. Others will see through it every time. Just do the best with what you know.”

-Dr. Daniel Evans

“Listen to your students. Ask questions about what’s important in their world. View them as participating individuals that offer diverse literacies for yourself and other students to learn from. Build pedagogy by focusing on where students are and what they want to know and learn. Highlight the experiences your students bring with them into your classroom and make connections to their lives as often as possible. Be part of their intellectual journey by walking beside them, never in front.”

-Steven Lessner, College Section

“My best piece of advice for a new teacher is to be flexible. Every day will not go smoothly. You will need to abandon lessons mid-stream. Don’t be afraid to do so! Ultimately, the students sitting directly in front of you need to guide the lesson and your teaching–not the curriculum guide or lesson plans you wrote last week.”

-Elizabeth Bell

“When my middle school students aren’t listening to comprehend, I give a speech I call, ‘Why We Are Here.’ We’re not here for me. I’m not up here talking to hear myself talk. I am here for you. To teach you things you will need to know. Not just because it’s in the state standards for ELA. I am here to help you. To help you learn and grow as a human being. To help you become a better you. But for me to be able to do that, you need to use the listening skills I’ve taught you.”

-Joy Stahl, Middle Section

“Teachers, you can do this! You are impacting kiddos daily, even if you can’t see the immediate response. These kids rely on you and believe in you to shape their futures!”

-Stephanie Branson, Student Section

“Teach students, not subjects. Teach readers, not books. Teach writers, not compositions. Teach conversations where speaking and listening dance together. Teach for their future, not your experience. Give your love first, and your lessons will light the way to learning that lasts a lifetime.”

-Charles Youngs, Secondary Section

“Ask for help. Do not go it alone!”

-Lindsey Barksdale, Secondary Section

“Never stop learning! There is so much to discover from our students. Allow them to introduce you to new ways of thinking.”

-Deahnna Lane

“Keep time for your personal life. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in work that you forget to recharge.”

-Anna Jenkins, Secondary Section

“Buy yourself a Writer’s Notebook, preferably Moleskine. Buy books. (If funds are not available, check them out of the library.) Write and read with your students, every day if possible.”

-Dominic Pioter, Secondary Section

“Negotiate learning. There are times when kids can’t do the assignment. Listen. There are times when students just can’t learn in one day. Listen. There are times when a student can’t get the work done on time because they need time to do better work. Instead of being hard and fast on your rules, listen. Negotiate when it matters. Negotiate when students need it. Negotiate when you see that it will yield better results and opportunities to learn. When negotiation is conducted to better oneself, listen.”

-Kevin Cordi, College Section

“Concentrate on reaching a few at a time. Teach with kindness, firmness, and confidence, and you will enjoy many fulfilling years.”

-Martha Joseph Watts

“The most unexpected thing I’ve learned about teaching is the depth of connection I feel with my students. Never did I expect great relationships in our classroom to become such a high priority.”

-Suzanne Gibbs

“Seek out mentors who can give you advice. Even though it may be difficult to hear, ask about the areas in which you need improvement. Growing in those areas will make you go from being a good teacher to a great one.”

-Lakisha Odlum, Lead Ambassador – Middle

“In your first couple years of teaching, try as many things as possible and do not be afraid of failure, because not everything will work the first time. Learn from experiences that don’t go as you planned and take time to reflect on what you can improve. Reflect on things that went well and note what you could improve. It’s all about reaching as many students as possible. You will only be able to do that if you are actively present and engaged in what is happening in your classroom.”

-Sheila Ogden

“When I first began my teaching career, I thought I would have arrived at my teaching potential when I ‘had it down.’ What I learned is that in teaching, we are never fully polished. I enjoy the discomfort of trying new strategies and learning new skills. I thrive when I am surrounded by people who push me.”

-Stacey Ross, Elementary Section

“Don’t be afraid to share your whole self. When we tear down the barriers we put up between ourselves and our students, we open the door to humanizing, loving relationships that foster learning and can transform the world.”

-Nicole Mirra, Lead Ambassador – College

“The real learning happens side-by-side with my students – theirs, mine, and ours. This synergy is what sustains me as an educator and as a learner. I have much to learn from my students.”

-Stacey Ross, Elementary Section

“Fall in love with whatever text you are teaching, even if you don’t get to choose it. Once students see that you are passionate about a text, they will believe that it’s worth investing their time in.”

-Lakisha Odlum, Lead Ambassador – Middle

“The most unexpected thing about teaching is how much I have changed over the past 16 years. I had no idea how much I would learn from the hundreds of students in my classes and how profoundly that would affect my teaching.”

-Brennan Cruser

“Make sure you incorporate who you are into your classroom. Your students will be able to gauge your sincerity.”

-Cedric Parms

“Reach out to the other teachers; they can provide incredible insight on students and emotional support. They get it!”

-Shyanne DeBaker, Student Member

“The little things we do matter as much as the big things. I never know the impact I am going to have in the small moments of our day. Our work with and for children is too important to ever be taken lightly.”

-Franki Sibberson, Elementary Section

“Sometimes the pressures and ever-increasing obligations related to this job can feel insurmountable. The way I stay motivated and passionate is by keeping the students as the focus.”

-Kristen Luettchau, Lead Ambassador – Secondary

“Get to know your students!”

-Darlene Breidenstein, Middle Section

“Remaining mindful of the audience in front of you, the children, and their states of adolescent development, is a consistent struggle when faced with the current demands on curriculum, instruction, rigor, and expectations. You need to work out a balance each school year between the love you have for your subject, the inevitable bond you make with each student, and the demands that the world of education places on you and your pupils.”

-Kasey Stecher

“I have learned that ‘kids are kids are kids.’ It does not matter what population you are serving; kids, and indeed learners of all ages, want to feel supported, successful and accepted.”

-Rachel McMinn, Secondary Section

“Keep your passion for teaching at the forefront. Remember why you teach, and do the best you can for your students.”

-Kristen Luettchau, Lead Ambassador – Secondary

“Be flexible and willing to learn with your class. Try to inspire your students every day; don’t aim for merely telling them or teaching them.”

-Melissa Bryan

“Make it a priority to build relationships with your students. This means putting aside the curriculum in order to focus on each child. Greet children as they come into your class and spend a few minutes talking with each child as often as you can. Laugh a lot with your students. Laugh at yourself. Admit mistakes and then tell kids you’re going to figure it out together. Communicate with your parents often and highlight the kids. Focus on the kids – first, last and always. Bring joy into the day.”

-Elisa Waingort, Student Member

“‘Stay ready so you ain’t gotta get ready!'”

-Raven Jones Stanbrough, Lead Ambassador – College

“The true measure of a great teacher does not come from test scores; it comes from the relationships you build. Sharing the love of learning is far more important than being able to identify and name an appositive phrase!”

-Kibbie Jensen, Middle Section

“Learn to say ‘no’ even when it scares you, even to those people who are in positions of power. If the decisions being made are not right for the students, they are not the right decisions. We must remain strong advocates for our students, and in this role, we must also be prepared to feel the most heat.”

-Nicole Warchol, Lead Ambassador – Middle

“Read your students’ writing as you would read published literature. Read it expecting meaning, structure, and voice. Do this before you read looking for deficits. You’ll be amazed at what good writers they are, and prepared to show them what they’re doing well first.”

-Nadine Feiler

“Keep a photo of your class, of your students close by when you’re planning. It helps you stay close to your WHY and grounded with your ideas and their true possibilities.”

-Stella Villalba, Lead Ambassador – Elementary

“Not only is it important to admit when you don’t know an answer, but it’s also important to follow up by looking for the answers. Have students see you research or ask them to do it. We do these tasks regularly, but so many students don’t realize that and think of it as schoolwork to avoid. This will help build relationships with your students, too.”

-Marianne Deitche

“Be open and honest. Do not be afraid to take chances. Sometimes the students are just as afraid as their new teacher.”

-Rafael Castillo

“I tell new teachers that they will struggle. They will feel as if they have failed on numerous occasions. And when they do it means they care, which means they’re invested in their students’ learning. That investment is worth the struggle.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“Being an educator has taught me to be reflective and teachable. I realized that I could model myself after great teachers and grow.”

-Johnny Allred

“If you want better classroom management, start by loving your students. When your kids know you genuinely care for them, they will work hard for you. Do not fake this love. They will know. How do you love your kids? Get to know them, ask them questions, discover the human being they are when they are not your English student. Appreciate them as a human being. Not a human doing. Do this, and they will soar and exceed your expectations of them.”

-Mallory Heath, Secondary Section

“Teaching is a passion for sharing knowledge with tools for learning and the advancement of technology. Teaching has become a profession of necessity, and the need continually rises. While international trade has widened to a global scale, English teachers become one of the most in-demand professions in the world.”


“How quickly students can recover. They are ready to move on after an apology in the blink of an eye. As the professional, I have learned how to recover quickly as well. One must not take anything personally!”

-Alison Reed

“Be yourself. Show empathy for your students and get to know them. It’s about more than what is in the book. It’s about what is inside you, your students, and helping them become capable of facing the real world.”

-Denise Duguay

“Look to Don Killgallon, (some) chapters of ‘Teacher Like a Champion,’ and ‘The Writing Revolution’ to help structure student thought — not just grammar. Urban educators often lament the perceived deficits of adolescent writing, settling for a narrative product or an oral presentation over the taxing pedagogical work required to develop elegant analytic sentences. The work is worth it, but so few still do it. Commit yourself to making these skills, to making syntax and style a priority.”

-Everett Epstein, Secondary Section

“The best piece of advice I can give is to slow down and breathe. Everything is going to feel terribly rushed all the time. It is completely acceptable to step back and bring things to a complete stop when you need to. You will get there, and everything will be fine.”

-Kirsten Foti, Middle Section

“For new teachers, the best piece of advice I have is to never be afraid to admit that you don’t know all of the answers. It’s okay to allow your students to see you struggle with some of your content or to not have all of the answers to their questions. In the joint process of finding those answers, you model life-long learning as a positive thing.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“Treat your students the way that you wanted to be–and, hopefully often were–treated as a student at that same age.”

-Bill Younglove, Secondary Section

“Our work is the most important work there is. It is joyful, fun, challenging, hard, energizing, tiring, and worth every bit of energy you give to it. You never know the impact you have on a child, but you always have one. Find joy in the work every day and learn from your students.”

-Franki Sibberson, Elementary Section

“As a preservice teacher myself, I would give a new teacher the same advice I give my colleagues who are moving into student teaching with me next semester: be confident! We are all in this profession for a reason, and having faith in yourself will help you to embody your best teacher personality. Let yourself shine!”

-Monica Soulsby, Student Member

“As a new teacher, it is important to prioritize and collaborate with colleagues. Having a seasoned mentor and support system to bolster your educational journey will lead you to success.”

-Kate Baker, Secondary Section

“Remember to model behaviors that you want your students to exhibit: be a reader, writer, and lifelong learner! You have to walk the walk . . . not just talk the talk.”

-Karen DiBella

“I felt like my ideas, and my goals made me an outcast in my school where most people seem content to uphold the status quo. When I go online and read about the experiences and experiments of other teachers, it encourages me to continue to innovate in my classroom and create a better experience for my students. Support is out there; you just have to look for it.”

-Jessica Gadaleta

“Love your work. Believe in your passion. If it ever just becomes just a job, do everyone a favor and get out of the profession.”

-Jodie Scales, Secondary Section

“Too often, I see teachers and other adults shake their heads at the ignorance of their students, asking how a student could not know this or that. Once upon a time, I was a part of that group; I was genuinely shocked at some of the ignorance I encountered. Today, I remember my youthful ignorance. While I am hardly a veteran teacher, having only five years under my belt, this lesson has continued to stick with me. It has taught me patience and forced me to develop a keen eye toward student awareness.”

– Sherri Williams, Secondary Section

“Teach what you love, love who you teach.”

-Mandy Stewart

“In all too many cases, you are the only real parent/guardian the child in your classroom has on an ongoing basis. Act like one at all times.”

– Bill Younglove, Secondary Section

“Ask for help. Visit other classrooms to get ideas.”

-Nicolet Diaz, Middle Section

“Never underestimate the element of surprise. Focus your teaching on adventure and discovery–on the sparks that fly when people and language meet. Let language and literature surprise you. Let them surprise your students. Let your students surprise themselves. Most of all, be open to learning from your students. They will absolutely surprise–and teach–you. In all this, you’re sure to surprise yourself, too.”

-Corinne Viglietta, Secondary Section

“Take risks! Beg forgiveness. Don’t ask permission (I’m not the first to say this, but I love repeating it). Don’t be afraid to veer off of the curriculum map. That’s where all the fun happens — on the bumpy roads.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“As teachers, we need to be comfortable handing the reins to the students. We need not be — and are not — the keepers of all the knowledge. Each student brings important knowledge with them to school. When we become real human beings, respect begins to flow in the classroom.”

-Suzanne Rogers, Secondary Section

“Never forget that your words can sting, humiliate, punish, diminish, or they can lift, support, praise, and motivate. Our ultimate goal is to get our students to learn, so be careful how you speak to children.”

-Richard Fanning

“Never give up on a student. Allow all of your students to experience success. Once they experience success, they will work hard to reach whatever goals are set. Also, get to know your students’ interests and hobbies. When they feel you genuinely care about them, they will strive to learn.”

-Pamela Miles

“Open your mind to the possibilities. . . but, by all means, be not a seeker, but a finder.”

-Cary Harrod

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many new teachers see asking for help as a sign of weakness or are afraid of being perceived as not doing a good job. Teaching is hard and we all need help from time to time. I’ve been teaching for 23 years, and I still seek out advice from others who are skilled in areas where I feel less than confident.”

-Mindi Rench, Elementary Section

“There is a lot of noise going on in the world, for good and for bad; don’t be afraid to give students a chance to be silent with themselves and their literacies.”

-Keith Newvine, Member

“I urge you to be advocates for public education. I have spent my career as an advocate of public education in urban poor regions of our country. And I am more convinced now than ever that good public schools are the foundation of our democracy. They are the best pathway to productive adult citizenship. Push back against the negative perceptions that pervade the public. You are fighting for democracy when you do.”

-Ted Kesler, Elementary Section

“Find an older teacher with a positive attitude and become his/her little brother or sister. These people have a lot to offer that you won’t find on an app.”

-Iris Csimbok

“1) Listen to your students; they have important things to say. 2) Find a master teacher in your building; you will need help. 3) Have fun; teaching and learning should be filled with joy.”

-Joe Seitz, Secondary Section

“Be resilient. You have an important role to play, so don’t let the small stuff dilute your purpose. Someone is waiting for you to be the inspiration he/she needs to discover the joy and wonder of what you are teaching.”

-Xia Zuckert

“Find an older teacher who can mentor you at your school. Keep a work/life balance. You’ll be a better teacher for it.”

-Shannon Powers

“If you do not get a hold of classroom management from the start, you are bound to fail. It’s why so many new teachers decide to leave the field. Read The First Days of School  by Harry and Rosemary Wong. It will really help you to become an effective teacher.”

-Kayla Roush, Secondary Section

“The most important thing I could say to a new teacher is to remember who you’re doing this for: the students. Find other teachers on campus with your passion; avoid those who respond to your ideas with the cynicism of “we’ve always done it this way” or “my students just won’t do that.” Bring your enthusiasm and energy to your students; empower them to be their best selves, to try new things, and to believe they are strong enough to succeed. You will find the passion and courage it takes to push through those things you have no control over. I promise it will be worth every moment you spend making a positive difference in the lives of your students.”

-Julia Peacock, Secondary Section

“Find a teacher whose style seems to work – one who the students respect and engage with – and emulate them. Seek out mentors and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. People who like to teach like to talk about teaching – engage them!”

-Elizabeth Shults, Secondary Section

“Being an educator taught me advocacy. As a Secondary English Education major, I first learned tolerance. My program built on that tolerance, teaching me not only to advocate for change, but how to teach my students to advocate for the things they believe in. Being an educator has forced me to examine my beliefs closely and then take action to translate these beliefs into tangible change in both my classroom and the world.”

-Sydney Palmer

“Be yourself. Be genuine. Kids can spot a show from a mile away and when they do, they will lose respect for you. Kids will have a lot more respect for you if you are genuine and honest. I admit my mistakes. I share my educational struggles. In many ways I had a very privileged upbringing so I do not try to pretend that I know what my students experience growing up in adverse situations. They appreciate that.”

-Rachel McMinn, Secondary Section

“No matter how new to the profession you are, you will never know the impact that a constant reminder of love will have on a child. I have made it a point to tell my students that no matter what they do or don’t do, they will be loved by me and that without fail, at the end of the school year, I will miss the privilege of teaching and learning from them.”

-Kasey Stetcher

“Pedagogy and engaging activities are important. However, the priority is to be your authentic self as much as possible with the students. This is really the only way to connect them with the subject matter. “

-Susan Blythe-Goodman

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try not to feel defeated after a bad day. Also, it’s ok to cry!”

-Anne Toussaint, Secondary Section

“Find your own way. Sure, getting advice, assignments, and classroom management tips can be exceptionally helpful. However, sometimes those things may not work for you and you may feel like a failure because of it. Develop your own style that feels right for you.”

-Kelly Franklin

“Remember to take care of yourself! If you lose yourself (physical, mental and emotional health), you cannot be your best for those you love.”

-Lisa Scherff, Secondary Section

“Being a teacher has ignited my desire to learn more. I have been taught, inspired, and motivated just as much as my students have.”

-Johnny Allred

“Every day, students should be creating, solving, or playing. ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.'”

-Alison Reed

“Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you fail spectacularly.”

Jennifer Leighton, Secondary Section

“Teaching has become my identity; learning my mission. I can not imagine ever doing anything else.”

-Matt Skillen, Middle Section

“We have to practice what we preach. WE have to be readers and writers if we want our students to read and write.”

-Traci Tousant

“Don’t neglect your health and wellness.”

Marie Havran, Elementary Section

“In order to cultivate a love for literacy among our scholars, every instructional move must explicitly support and reinforce a simple yet powerful expectation: “Readers write; writers read.”

-Aaron Penton, College Section

“Teaching is about relationships and the humans we are entrusted with in our classes.”

-Tami Dean

“Find ways to remind each child of their innate goodness.”

-Lauren Nizol, Secondary Section

“Learning to think on my feet and honing that skill over the last 17 years has been invaluable. Inevitably, when lessons implode, technology crashes, or worksheets disappear, opportunity is born for the most creative and successful lessons. Trust yourself.”

-MeriBeth Underwood

“Carve out and keep sacred time for self-care at least one day each week. On that day do something unrelated to school work, or nothing at all. Reserve and preserve time for relaxation and rejuvenation with family, friends, or just being alone.”

-Anna J. Small Roseboro, Secondary Section

“Be kind to yourself and to your students. Be patient with yourself and more so with them. Find something to smile about daily. Know you’ll be imperfect by definition but failure is your greatest teacher. Listen to it.”

-David Romero

“Forming personalized, individual, and whole-class relationships is the most important foundation for effective teaching and learning. Not just for academic development but for social, emotional, psychological, and physical too.”

-Luke Beaton

“If you love them, they will learn.”

-Desiree Gil

“Choice rules all. Even as an adult, if you force me to do something without giving me the ability to decide how, when, why, where, I’m less likely to engage with the activity. Choice gives our students power, sense of ownership, and identity. Accept the risk that comes with giving choice. Know that it may not work out every time, but that teaching comes with necessary risk. Learn that through risk, you can learn so much more about yourself as a teacher and your students. Lifelong learners FTW (For the Win)!”

-Aaron DeLay, Middle Section

“Focus on your students. Listen less to people outside of your classroom telling you what to do, and do what you know is right to do for the people inside your classroom.”

-Erik Palmer, Middle Section

“You are not what your students need. You are not the solution to what troubles them. They are. Help them discover that.”

-Matthew Goetz, Secondary Section

“I wish I knew years ago . . . that I was enough; that kids came first, not curriculum; to be careful with words, because words have power for good or harm. I wish I knew that teaching was more than a lesson plan. I know now we are growing humans here.”

-Marina Rodriguez, Elementary Section

“It is okay to not be okay! It is okay to struggle! Find your strength and courage in knowing that you will sharpen your craft if you reach out to your peers, find time to rest, and pace yourself. Every teacher you admire has been in your exact place—excited, terrified, and stressed.”

-Rebecca Smith, Secondary Section

“Be patient and feel the needs of your pupils/students. Sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.”

-Jun Jin Brillantes

“Get to know your kids. The individual student is your work.”

-Bob Coleman, Secondary Section

“Find ways to be a student in front of your students. Let them see you struggle and then grow. In my experience, this has led to a ‘we’re all in this together’ atmosphere conducive to collaboration, risk, and creativity.”

-Emily Brisse

“The ELA classroom offers many opportunities for us to open our lives to students. They should experience ‘mirrors, windows, and sliding doors’ (Rudine Sims Bishop) through reading, writing, and listening . . . listening to teachers who understand the impact their stories have on creating a classroom community.”

-Melissa Barnett, Secondary Section

“Take time to get to know your students. They are people, not a test score, not a reading level. They matter. It’s your job to make sure they know that.”

-Shay Garland, Middle Section

“There’s nothing you can’t learn.”

-Alejandra Oros

“Allow yourself the opportunity to be engulfed in your student’s story (their life). Sometimes their story has multiple conflicts, round characters and flat characters, protagonists and antagonists, and various other elements. Be sure that you read the entire book and not just one chapter! You’d be surprised how the next chapter or novel will be written with you as a reader, instead of a literary critic!”

-Melaine Andrews

“Empower your students to lead the learning. Take time early on to discover their strengths and interests and invite them to teach others. Stand back and watch them become more confident and competent. A true learning community lets ALL teach.”

-Susan Sabella

“Students are people, too. When we approach them as individuals who have a human experiences just like us, we know the privilege it is to be a teacher who molds a life journey. Our job is equal parts teaching the standard and content, and learning about another life that can impact us in profound ways.”

-Stephanie Maynard

“Laugh! No matter how perfectly you plan the lesson, something WILL go wrong. That’s okay! Learn to laugh and roll with the punches. The students will appreciate your openness and you will be better for the laughter in the long run.”

-Brooke Vaughan

“Build relationships! Set expectations early on and the relationships will come more easily. Understand that every student is different and has different strengths. Keep in mind that these young people are someone’s children. Treat them as if they were your own child–how do you speak to them? How do you behave towards them? How do you help them learn in the way they learn best? Make sure to take care of yourself!”

-Melanie Zeman, Elementary Section

“Allow yourself not only to invite students to spill it to you, but also to create boundaries. While mental health disorders and problems are on the rise in our college population, and many campus resources are not keeping pace with their medical needs, we can only do so much, and our own health is also important. In the age of instant notification, we do not have to be accessible all the time, for any reason, even when we care deeply.”

-Gwen Gray Schwartz, College Section

“Do your very best each day. Upon reflection, there will be changes and improvements logged into your plan book and memory, but as long as you did your best that day, you can lay your head down at night and feel good about the day.”

-Aimee Sarver

“Take the time to get to know your students. REALLY know them. Have class meetings. Let them speak of their dreams and their hopes and their worries. Find out what they do after school, before school, and on the weekends. Connect with them in a one-on-one way as many times as you can. When kids feel seen and heard and valued, when they know they are an important part of the group, their learning will be unfettered. It will be enthusiastic. There will never be any fear of making mistakes.”

-Logan Beth Fisher

“Get SMART with SMART Goals: Student Reflection and Goal Setting in the Classroom”

-Shawna Easton, Secondary Section

“Never, ever, ever miss an opportunity to get to know a student better. Spend time listening to students as they put their materials in their locker or when you are on hall duty. Ask questions. Volunteer to do bathroom escorts when you are proctoring a test. Treat them like friends you haven’t seen in a long time. Try to remember all the little things that students tell you — you can turn them into writing prompts, book suggestions, and relationships around the building.”

-Amy Estersohn, Middle Section

“You will make mistakes. There will be days when you cry. In the end, it is the journey that is beautiful. You will make connections and spark conversations. By the first day of summer break, you will miss every one of your students. You are meant to be here, making a change, and shaping the future. You are the driving force of the future of America. You are a hero. Wear your cape with confidence.”

-Brooke Mohr, Secondary Section

“Listen to your voice, both your outer and inner one. This is a touchstone for what you have to give students.”

-Suzette Given

“Learn from others. You will make mistakes, but the journey is worth it.”

-Brooke Mohr, Secondary Section

“You have a heart — and it is of utmost importance. You also have standards. Young people need both now more than ever. Don’t be afraid to have both.”

-Michael Eldrich

“Being an educator has taught me that I have a true love for teaching the whole child. I have learned that it is imperative for me to make relationships with my students before I can teach them.”

-Libby Bell

“It’s all about relationships! The way we make our students feel is so much greater than any content we teach them.”

-Ginger Burk

“Laugh hard and laugh often. Your kids are joyful people. Never forget that.”

-Andrea Marshbank, Secondary Section

“Don’t be afraid to make your class personal. Taking time out from content in order to get to know students and having them get to know you is NEVER wasted time.”

-Hannah Glines

“Reward students for what they do well. There is no reason to grade everything you do, and there is no reason to rely on an average of scores. You are a professional; confidently assess your students and assign them the appropriate grade.”

-Sarah Arnold

“Be reflective, responsive, and remain teachable.”

-Dr. Kimberly Johnson, Elementary Section

“Invest in relationships first, and learning will follow.”

-Abigail Crane, Secondary Section

“Follow your heart and the hearts of your students.”

-Lorainne Cella, Secondary Section

“Bring joy into your classroom! Enjoy the stories your children will bring with them.”

-Michelle Kimpson, Elementary Section

“NCTE members and convention leaders energize me with teaching ideas, stories, and books. I leave the convention as a stronger reader, leader, and dancer of literacies. I have a feeling of coming home among teachers who breathe languages, literacies, and books. I feel propelled to go forward and to persist in the caring work we do as teachers of language arts and community literacies.”

-R. Joseph Rodríguez, College Section

“In the first year of teaching, I just followed the textbooks specified by the school. After a month, I found that this approach was wrong. Since then, I have involved students in setting up complementary activities both in class and outside the class. With students’ involvement, their enthusiasm in learning is boosted, and a harmonious and striving class emerged unexpectedly.”

-Jackson Mak

“I think student choice is so important. Students should feel like partners in their learning.”

-Jessica Gadaleta

“Have a small ‘caddy’ on your desk or table. Prior to the beginning of class, have handouts ready for students to grab out of the caddy at the appropriate time. This eliminates the need for distributing papers, which in turn saves time, maintains a classroom’s sense of urgency, builds student independence, and significantly improves classroom management as it drastically cuts down on the times when students are simply waiting to receive their papers.”

-Zachary Wright

“Being a teacher has taught me that we all have something to share, to offer, to teach. A lot of my job goes beyond the realm of teacher. I have learned that I can’t inspire change or champion strength, kindness, and perseverance if I am not doing the same. I used to have moments where I felt very small, as if I could never do anything that would make a difference. It would bother me. I am not a millionaire. I am not famous. How can I truly have an impact? I have realized that my words, actions, and my teaching do make a difference. I see it firsthand in my students. I see it in the community we create here. I see it when they walk back through my classroom door after graduating with a story of what they are doing now. Those experiences in my classroom transcend these four walls, and I was a part of that. I have so much more power and influence than I ever realized and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.”

-Rachel McMinn, Secondary Section

“When we really listen to children, they tell us all there is to know about teaching wisely and well.”

-Karen Szymusiak, Elementary Section

“Any new teacher is going to be equally excited and nervous to start a new position at a new school, and there will likely be many opportunities to get involved and explore with the students at the new school. I think it’s important for new teachers to recognize how easy it can be to get overwhelmed and burn out quickly. It’s easy to want to do everything and overextend yourself. My advice would be for new teachers to set small, measurable goals to accomplish throughout the first few years and don’t be afraid to say no when certain things are asked. There’s no need to volunteer for everything. There’s no need to plan for every lesson to be extravagant or over the top. New teachers are still students, so it’s important to learn without getting driven out of the profession prematurely.”

-Mitchel Meighen

“Relationships, Relationships, Relationships: One simple word that will forever change your way of teaching. It is all about building relationships with your students each and every day.”

-Cameron Carter, Lead Ambassdor – Elementary

“Being an educator has taught me about my limits and how to build resiliency. It’s so easy to give all of yourself to your students, but you have to remember to take care of yourself too. If you are run down, you’ll be more susceptible to getting sick, and may not be as patient as you’d like to be with your students and colleagues. Take time to read a book, go to the gym, or go for a walk. Give yourself permission to take a break from your grading or planning, and do something for yourself!”

-Caroline Lehman, Middle Section

“Students are more resistant to change than I had expected. They are used to school being a certain way and don’t always know what to do with a teacher who wants to do things differently.”

-Jennifer Leighton, Secondary Section

“Build relationships through teaching what matters to students. They want to learn through things that are currently happening in the world today.”

-Jenny Martin, College Section

“Being an educator has taught me that I am more resilient than I believed. For someone with an idyllic view of the profession, it was a rude awakening to finally enter the public school system. However, no matter how many times I ‘failed,’ I would find an alternate method of instruction. It can be easy to admit defeat when the education of the next generation is in your hands, but being resilient shows a true dedication to the craft and the students.”

-Anthony Greer

“Teaching is more than instruction, way more. I thought that I knew what teaching entailed from my undergraduate work and my student teaching, but the sheer amount of decisions and multi-tasking that a teacher has to make throughout the day is an adjustment – no matter how much you prepare.”

-Caroline Lehman, Middle Section

“Become a real person to your students.”

-Suzanne Rogers, Secondary Section

“I would like to advise about the importance of bravery, authenticity, and metacognitive connection in teaching. Often, I see new teachers struggling to deliver the literacy content. They ignore the power of human connection that exists in an authentic reading experience. For example, while reading a text piece, discuss, scaffold, and share your own experience and enrich your students to regard such reading experience as joyous and enriching. Don’t simply give a skill sheet, but explain the purpose of reading and your expectation of strategies that you want the students to be utilizing. Be brave in sharing your thoughts and hear what your students have to share.”

-Grace Lee, Student Member

“A teaching year is a marathon, not a sprint. You will not accomplish everything you want to complete in the first day, the first week, or the first year. The good news is that you have the summer to retool, rebuild, and reenvision the next school year.”

-Matt Skillen, Middle Section

“Take your time, show your effort, focus on how you can help your students instead of worrying about how your students will see you.”

-Rose Yang

“Don’t give up. Every student has a key and you just have to figure out what inspires, motivates, or unlocks the treasure. Focus on the positives and find a support network. You can make a difference in kids’ lives by caring.”

-Susan Connelly


-Katherine Arnoldi

“Greet your students at the door every day and learn their names. I failed to do this my first year, and I never got that chance again. My second year, and every year after, I stand at the door and don’t let a single student in until I’ve either remembered their name or they’ve scolded me for not remembering. It will make them see you care from day one and allow you to build a relationship from the beginning.”

-Audra Bolhuis, Secondary Section

“Breathe. It’s that simple. Once those sweet, smiling faces enter the classroom, all your worries fade away! Embrace every moment, even the sharp twists and turns. Smile; you’re about to be an everlasting memory in the life of a child.”

-Cameron Carter, Lead Ambassador – Elementary

“Keep doing your homework and never stop learning. Prepare to the best of your ability, but perhaps even more importantly, don’t be afraid to throw everything out the window if it isn’t working for your students.”

-Jessica Mitchell

“Embrace the awkward. Lean into the weird. Look for opportunities to grow out of discomfort.”

-Liz Shults, Lead Ambassador – Secondary

“Invest in two things: becoming a lifelong learner and lasting relationships with those you teach.”

-Joseph Ferraro

“Keep doing your homework and never stop learning. Prepare to the best of your ability, but perhaps even more importantly, don’t be afraid to throw everything out of the window if it isn’t working for your students.”

-Jessica Mitchell

“Don’t go into teaching expecting to ‘teach.’ Go into teaching expecting to share what you know and to learn just as much, if not more, from your students. Learning doesn’t end at graduation or upon the receipt of your teaching license; it’s a lifelong process, and your students can teach you as much as you can teach them.”

-Sherri Williams, Secondary Section

“Learn to teach and live with radical love.”

-Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith

“You don’t need all the answers. Someone will have them, and they just might come from the places you least expect. So be watchful. Be mindful. And once you’ve found it, share it!”

-Amanda Lucas, Secondary Section

“I’ve learned that I always have so much to learn from my students — every day, every hour. Also, I’ve learned that as a planner who loves to know all that is going to happen next, I love the fact that every day in the classroom brings surprises. The joy is in the surprises.”

-Franki Sibberson, Elementary Section

“Make connections with your students.”

-Cherylann Smith, Middle Section

“Every day is full of both challenges and rewards. The biggest rewards come from stepping beyond the classroom walls to make an impact on your students and your community.”

-Melody Niesen

“To risk cliche, Shakespeare said it best, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true.'”

-Jenna Kober

“Be prepared and willing to do whatever it is you are asking your students to do. Watch a documentary? You watch it with them. Write a poem? You write one too. Give a presentation? Show them what a good presentation looks like. You can’t be the teacher who sits at her desk and expects her students to engage in something she clearly doesn’t find important enough to join them in. “

-Maria Whitley, Secondary Section

“Keep it simple and ask for help when you need it. Stay focused on your goals and make a plan. When you feel like things aren’t going quite right, seek out a mentor teacher to help you.”

-Sarah Fitzgerald, Secondary Section

“Embrace the career you have chosen, but be mindful that it is a challenge worth taking on.”

-Samantha Chase

“Take the time to build mutual trust and respect before you worry too much about delivering content. Develop an authentic teacher persona that works for you and your students. Remember that students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

-Daniel Yowell, Secondary Section

“Overprepare as much as possible. Something will always go differently than expected – more discussion or everyone freezes up, the reading takes too long or happens too quickly, they all did their homework, or no one did – and the more you have ready to go, the better you will be able to roll with the changes as they occur. Plus, it makes lesson planning for the next day easier with all of the materials you have already collected and prepared.”

-Megan Jones, Student Member

“Listen to hear and understand, not to respond.”

-Jenna Kober

“Collect informal data in a structured way from your students about their perception of your teaching strengths and what could be improved. Do not focus solely on what they like, but what you are doing to help them learn and retain knowledge and skills. Then select ONE aspect of your practice to work on for a short period (one month, one unit, etc). Break the fourth wall and tell them when you are trying something new. Get data from them on how well they think it worked. Share your reflection on the change process. They will not only see your commitment to teaching, but as someone who is brave enough to share the process of continual improvement, not an easy thing to do. You are modeling the messy challenge of learning. That’s more important than any content you teach.”

-Cathy Leogrande, Secondary Section

“Do not be afraid to ask for help. Your more experienced colleagues are there to guide and mentor you. Take one day at a time.”

-Cassie Alber

“Listen to your students’ voices. Their voices are your voices.”

– Jackson Mak

“As John Dewey reminds us, when I make the best decisions I can to set up an experience for students that I believe will optimize learning, and then get out of the way, the students astound me!”

-Charlene Mendoza, Secondary Section

“Use writing and response to reading (yours AND theirs) to get to know your students. Teaching and learning happen in relationships, so you must build relationships actively and explicitly so they can learn and succeed.”

– Debra Schneider, Secondary Section

“Don’t overthink plans or stress out when plans don’t go like you thought. If students are reading and writing, they will be making gains.”

-Susan Barber, Secondary Section

“I have my students bring in a personal artifact to decorate the room throughout the year, but they have to research the item to understand more about its history, its creation, and how it provides a link to the world. Many of them really struggle with what to bring at the beginning of the year, but comment on how much it transforms the classroom and becomes “their” space. At the end of the school year, after students take their artifacts home, I know it was effective when they make comments like, ‘Awww, now it feels like a classroom in here.'”

-Ron Hustvedt

“Remember always that you are a teacher first. Before you are a district employee, you are a teacher. When you see your students floundering due to weaknesses in your adopted curriculum or organizational culture, it is your ethical duty to meet them where they are and find creative ways to scaffold, enrich, and engage them in the learning experience that only you can provide. You are their teacher.”

-Lenecia Kinney Gordon

“Be versatile. Know your students, their needs, and their abilities. Respect them and make sure they respect each other. Lead by example and uphold high standards while not compromising on support.”

-Rita Kranidis, College Section

“Explore, explore, explore. Do not be a boring teacher. Be creative, inspiring, and innovative. It works.”

-Augurie Herring

“As an educator, I must be willing to work and learn right alongside my students. To be uncomfortable, to struggle, to pick myself up from missteps, and especially to celebrate successes while I’m next to the kiddos. I can’t lecture them about what to do from a podium at the front of the room and then expect them to find success in an authentic task. I have to talk, demonstrate, model, teach, and learn with them. And that’s when teaching and learning are especially rewarding.”

-Julie Swinehart

“Find your tribe; locate other professionals who will help support you in the early years. It takes a village to raise a ‘teacher baby.’ Places like your State Affiliate, NCTE, ALAN are all going to provide you with mentors across the country. Get involved and stay involved!”

-Pauline Schmidt, Secondary Section

“Give yourself grace. You are learning so much so quickly. It’s normal to be frustrated that you aren’t living up to your own standards. You will get there.”

-Amanda Brewer, Middle Section

“Don’t be afraid to be silly with your students. Do what you have to do to get an adequate response.”

-Kelly Maze

“Make a list of three things you enjoy doing. Those are the first three things you will stop doing. When you realize you have stopped doing these things, reorganize how you are approaching teaching, because losing yourself is a sign the occupation is creeping into parts of your soul reserved for endurance.”

-Jami Greer

“Do not dictate. Do not pretend you have all the answers. Tell students they are smart. Tell students they have not made a mistake until they have been taught a specific method. Be flexible. Give students two minutes to think about what they want to say.”

-Angela Hooks

“My advice to new teachers is always to strive for progress, not perfection. Teaching is always a matter of trial, error, and revision. Always take the time to capitalize on a teachable moment, seek out student feedback and praise those contributions when they help shape the learning experience for the class, and never be afraid to fail or admit when you’re wrong. Students are more forgiving when they know teachers are taking risks to shake up the status quo.”

-Andrew Easton

“Know who Shakespeare really was then, not who we think he is now. He was popular, accessible, and a country boy at heart. Present him as someone with whom you would hang out.”

-Joe Sicilian

“Your first year will probably be the toughest. Don’t give up! Give yourself several years in the classroom to get your feet under you. Our kids need great educators, so keeping pushing yourself be the best version of you!”

-Suzanne Gibbs

“Become part of learning networks. Especially with expanding social media, there are so many that are easily accessible…But also, nothing can replace face-to-face meetings to discuss new ideas, to problem solve, to hone your practices. For ELA teachers, NCTE is a great organization that provides it all: virtual meetings, local affiliate groups, and an inspiring national conference with plenty of opportunities for face-to-face meetings.”

-Ted Kesler, Elementary Section

“None of us are perfect, but on the things that we can make conscious decisions about, do what you would want the student you are going to be teaching to do. Integrity and ethics are everything…”

-Jodie Scales, Secondary Section

“My advice for a new teacher is to find the wiggle room between what your district or department wants you to do and what you know as best practice. Hopefully those two overlap, but if they don’t, please find ways to weave in best practices. Don’t get stuck on what you “can’t” do, but find a way to work in what you can do.”

-Caroline Lehman, Middle Section

“I would advise new teachers to talk to colleagues who they find themselves agreeing with, but also seek out colleagues with different perspectives. This approach will lead to a much more creative and fulfilling first couple of years.”

-Sean Hackney, Secondary Section

“Don’t give up, especially when you’re teaching urban youth or students who live in abject poverty. They may behave like they don’t care, but they do. They’re simply accustomed to people giving up on them so they try to head us off at the pass. Don’t give them an out. All they need is one consistent teacher in their lives. That will change everything. Don’t think about saving them. Give them the tools to save themselves!”

Yolanda Whitted, Secondary Section

“Keep going. Try new things and ask lots of questions. Your first few years will be full of mistakes, but if you bounce back stronger then you will turn into a fantastic educator.”

-Anthony Greer

“You can learn a lot from others. Observe good teachers in action – not just in your subject area!”

Aubrey Lee

“Be a kid watcher. Watch them for their passions and what they are trying on as learners. Watch them to learn about the books they love and the characters they identify with and those that help them see a world from a different perspective.”

-Stacey Ross, Elementary Section

“Respond to your kids. Follow their lead. Learn alongside them.”

Brennan Cruser

“The biggest rewards come from stepping beyond the classroom walls to make an impact on your students and your community.”

-Melody Niesen

“I am an advocate for success for all students, but as long as there is a grading scale, differences should be anticipated and welcomed.”

-Martha Joseph Watts

“When times are hard, remember that everyone – parents, other teachers, administrators – all want the same thing: for our children to succeed and feel loved.”

-Lauren Huddleston

“Ultimately the students sitting directly in front of you need to guide the lesson and your teaching–not the curriculum guide or lesson plans you wrote last week.”

-Elizabeth Bell