By Teachers, For Teachers
Ben Eielson Jr/Sr. High School
Christine Dyer has been a member of the her alma mater Ben Eielson faculty for eight years. After excelling at Ben Eielson, she earned a soccer and academic scholarship to Lindenwood University and graduated from there with a degree in English and a teaching certificate. Mrs. Dyer then returned to Alaska to obtain a Master’s Degree in Literature from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She currently resides—very happily—in North Pole with her husband, David; dog, Oscar, and bird, Gatsby.
Mrs. Dyer has taught English 9, English 11 and English 11 Honors for the past eight years. This year, she’s SUPER EXCITED to take on AP English and English 9 Honors. She has coached junior high soccer, basketball and volleyball, as well as being an assistant coach for the Runnin’ Ravens. Mrs. Dyer is ALSO SUPER EXCITED to take on the head coaching position for Lady Ravens volleyball.
In addition to athletics, Mrs. Dyer was started the Raven Writing Academy: an editing and tutorial program for students who need some assistance in reaching their full English Nerd Potential.
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Hmmm...my favorite teacher would have to be a toss up between Mr. McCarthy (5th and 6th grade), Mrs. Glisson (high school English), and Dr. Schnellman (college English). I chose these three people because they all had SUCH high expectations for me and in their classroom, and they really pushed me as a student.
Also, before I could "like" them, I had to respect them--I had to understand that they weren't just "inflicting pain" upon me and my classmates because they had the power to do so; they were doing what was best for us as students: challenging our opinions of the subject matter and ourselves and pushing us to constantly strive to impress not only them but ourselves. After I understood that (in retrospect, I admit, in Mr. McCarthy's case), I worked my butt off for them, and they, in turn, worked their butts off for me. Because of them, I teach by this mantra: you can only expect your students to work as hard as you do.
What are three things every teacher should own?
If you could have any person (living, dead or fictional) as a principal, who would it be?
If I could have any person (living, dead or fictional) as a principal, it would be Mark Twain. As a satirist, Twain had plenty to say about the educational system of his time, but he also had many great insights on the power that being educated holds. He also was a big believer in personal responsibility and making difficult choices.
I think that he would be able to see kids as kids--his discipline would consist of understanding and holding them accountable for their behavior. Through his open-mindedness and high standards, Twain would be able to show kids and convince them that they are more than what they may see themselves to be, which is always a good characteristic for a school's leader.
What profession other than your own would you most like to attempt?
I'm not sure if everyone would define this as a profession, but I'd have to say motherhood. I cannot wait to be a mother, and I cannot think of any other full-time occupation or activity that I'd rather do than raise a child.
Describe your all-time favorite lesson/unit activity.
My favorite unit has got to be performing Arthur Miller's The Crucible with my 11th graders. After we study Puritan ideals, we decorate the four walls of the classroom as the four sets of the play. Each year the sets get more and more intricate and amazing. Using black and brown construction paper, fishing line, TONS of cardboard, cloth, etc., the students create--in 3-D--an upstairs bedroom, a kitchen and dining room, an anteroom of a courthouse, and a jail cell. (This past year a student brought in real bales of hay to cover the cell floor!) I wish I could attach pictures of this--you wouldn't believe that 40 students put these sets together in three days. There is nothing--and I mean nothing-- left in the sets that looks modern day.
This unit involves a lot of ingenuity and teamwork--which is great to watch in the classroom. But here's the most amazing part: our background study of Puritans consists of the religion only--and no visuals. Since they have little (only what they may have previously known or seen in movies) knowledge of exactly what these places would've looked like, it's a great exercise of their imagination; but, yet, because they "understand" how the Puritans felt, they put the ideas together quite easily.
After we decorate, we don costumes and perform the play--the kids LOVE it! They are SO invested in their sets and that bleeds into the characters--they read them as if they've known these people their entire lives. To surprise the kids, I get local "celebrities" (college athletes, TV and radio personalities, the superintendent of schools, as well as my friends, family and other teachers) in the classroom to play other parts. This year, I'm going to try to get a few of the arena football players in to act with us!
What is the greatest misconception about teachers?
The greatest misconception about teachers is that we work less than a "normal" profession. Our school district just went through the harrowing process of renewing our contracts, which sparked HUGE public debate on whether people who don't even work a full year deserve more money. I wrote a letter to our local newspaper and spoke out at a school board meeting about this. The teachers I know who are respected by their students and peers work WAY more than a year's worth of eight-hour days in a nine-month time frame and continue their education and professional development over the summer.
What stereotype about teachers is true?
I know that this is not true for everyone, but, in my experience, I would have to say that teachers have very little "life" outside of their classroom during the school year--and I'm okay with that. I know that it's a choice, but I've heard people say it before, and I have to admit that--for me-- it's definitely true.
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
My dad was a teacher, and my mother worked at our high school as well, so I was surrounded by the teaching atmosphere while growing up. I think that being a teacher is what I've always been destined to do, but it wasn't an obvious, blatant choice at first.
I remember struggling in college to pick a major when--at the beginning of my junior year--Ana Schnellman, whom I mentioned in question one, simply said: "Why don't you become a teacher?" I can still remember that conversation clearly, and, after that, it seemed so natural...I'm not sure why it didn't hit me before.