Spring is here! (Technically…)
As we’re springing into something new, it’s fitting that our spotlight member for march is Cecelia Spencer, a first-year teacher at Sullivan Middle School. Cecelia was nominated by a colleague – if you want to nominate someone, just click through and fill out this form!
Her nominator said:
Cecilia always meets students with a calm, cool, and friendly attitude. She models good citizenship as well as care and concern for the world. She is innovative in her lesson planning, a true team-player, and always willing to share materials. We are so thankful to have Cici at Sullivan!
An Interview with Ms. Spencer
How’d It All Start?
I’ve always liked working with kids – I grew up with three brothers, so it was always second nature to me. I was also lucky enough to have some wonderful teachers in middle school and high school. I remember one teacher in Middle School – my history teacher – who really impacted my life.
She asked questions that I had never thought of before in history class. I remember her talking about the Isreali-Palestinian conflict and being able to explain how there are no simple “right” or “wrong” positions, but that we needed to understand all of the perspectives in order to understand the issue. That idea – that each side needs to be understood – is something I’ve carried into my own teaching. I try to teach real, complex, history, and bring it to life for my youth.
What have been your successes and your challenges this year?
Over the summer, I worked with juvenile offenders, kids in lockup. I was absolutely terrified when I started, and people told me that I wouldn’t have a good experience there. But they were wrong. After my first week I was able to make some great connections with my students, talking about current issues like the potential of having a woman on the $20 bill, and we were able to have a powerful summer of learning.
My biggest challenge this year is the same as any teacher in Worcester: reaching a diverse group of students. I teach youth from dozens of different cultures, those who were born in America and elsewhere, and students who have very different needs and skills. It’s a challenge to know how to reach all of these students, and to make my class meet all of their needs. It’s something that keeps me working hard every day to make sure my students are all able to work hard, learn, and grow.
What are your major keys – your takeaways from this first year of teaching?
Success doesn’t look the same for everyone. This is a hard concept to work with, but it’s absolutely integral to teaching. Not every student can or will master the content in the same way – what might be a small victory for one could be a groundbreaking success for another. As a teacher, I need to tailor success to each student. Even more importantly, I need to be okay with little successes. You can’t succeed with every student every day – but you can find important and valuable successes every day, and share that with your students.
Do you have any advice to share with other teachers?
Stay positive! There’s always a bright side, even in moments that seem frustrating. Being negative doesn’t really help anything. While it might be good to be skeptical, being negative just makes things hard. Stay positive, stay open, and keep everything moving! If you can stay open to new ideas and feedback from others, you’ll become a little better every day, and your students will appreciate that!
And for that matter, life will be easier. Choose your ‘tude and hold on to your positivity!