By Teachers, For Teachers
Coral Springs Middle School
Broward County, Florida
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
My favorite teacher was my 12th grade Drama teacher, his name was Robert L. Being in high school in 1970 during times of racial turbulence, he taught me something that I live my life by and teach it to my students, "DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!"
I felt he made this statement just for me and truthfully, I live my life by these words of wisdom. He recently retired and I speak to him on Facebook and he was amazed that I remembered those words and the positive impact those four little words played out in my personal and professional life. This is what teaching should be all about: leaving a mark.
What are three things every teacher should own?
This is a tough question. However in teaching 37 years all age groups and disabilities, I have always had a prize box that students always needed to see what was in it and therefore earned their way into it. Another thing is a CD player to play piano, classical or fun music when the students are working. Lastly, a great personality to have fun with the students and laugh and cry with them when needed.
If you could have any person (living, dead or fictional) as a principal, who would it be?
If I could have any person as my principal, I say that it would have to be Jesus. Not only would he be my principal, he also would be a principal to others. What an amazing role-model and person he was and a teacher of ethics, values, and tolerance. Basically, he walked softly but carried a big stick. This trait is so needed in our schools in these troubled times. Children and adults alike need strong, gentle role-models to follow.
What profession other than your own would you most like to attempt?
I wanted to go into the theater and act because true acting is role-playing. There is a connection between teaching and acting.
Describe your all-time favorite lesson/unit activity
This is a tough question! However in looking back on so many years, I must say that my ongoing lesson and project of raising butterflies in my classroom. For the last four three years, I was lucky enough to have an Environmental Partnership Organization sponsor me and build a magnificent butterfly garden outside my classroom door. My students weed, water and care for this haven. There is a teaching moment whenever caterpillars appear on my milkweed plants. Students gently remove them, snip the milkweed and we place them in ventilated containers to watch and document the life cycle of the "Monarch Butterfly." We were even lucky enough to capture the emerging butterfly on film and share it with the school on our T.V. station. An amazing lesson in respect and building character traits in children.
Last year, one of my "most difficult student," said, "you know Mrs. Heyler, I never even noticed a butterfly or cared if I stepped on one. But now, I saw one laying in the street, still moving and alive. I stopped my bike, got off went into the street and picked her up and put her on the grass. I guess I saved her life." What an exciting revelation to hear these words, from this student. Mission accomplished!
What is the greatest misconception about teachers?
The greatest misconception about teachers is that we teach for the days off. There are so many clerical duties in teaching, that we need days off to get it all in and write master plans to motivate and educate our children.
What stereotype about teachers is true?
The stereotype about teachers I have found to be true, especially great teachers is that we look forward to the summers off. This is true because we work so hard during the year, night and day, that we need to rest in order to continue to do an outstanding job throughout the school year. We also need this time to reflect and plan for the upcoming school year. Recharging our energy, and enthusiasm is so vital in order to continue into the next school year.
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was about 10 years old. I have two younger sisters and in the summer I held school (play school) with them and several neighborhood kids. We read and drew, and did creative projects. Then I ran a Carnival for a show called Sunny Fox and raised $20.00 for physically handicapped children. My name was announced on our little black and white t.v. and I knew then, this is what I was born to do.
When I was 12, there was a severely physically disabled young man that lived 1/2 mile away. I remember meeting him and his mom and feeling such sadness for Tony, that I became his one and only friend. Several days a week after school, I walked to his house and read to him and taught him how to use his feet to hold a pencil to write words out to me. This experience became my confirmation that I was born to be a Special Education Teacher." Now 37 years later, the passion still burns in me as I enter my 38th year of teaching Special Education kids.