Karen Heathcock, 3rd Grade Teacher, Albemarle County Public Schools
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I believe that when students walk through the door of my classroom, they should feel as though they are walking into their future, not into my past. As educators, we have a responsibility to keep pace with the rapidly changing technologies that are impacting how students learn, interact, and demonstrate knowledge. One of the most challenging aspects of my job is staying on top of what’s new and finding meaningful ways to integrate these new technologies into student learning. It is exhilarating to be an educator during a time of such rapid change, but being on the cutting edge of our profession requires a significant amount of professional development, professional reading, and online networking that can’t be done during the school day.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
I think that the most common misconception about teaching is that we can use a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction. In order to be effective, I have to be responsive to the different needs, interests, and learning preferences of each of my students. Every lesson requires that I provide multiple paths to the same goal so that all of my students can access the material and construct knowledge.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
One of the reasons I entered education is because I am drawn to the premise of teaching as a constantly evolving practice. Five years ago, I couldn’t have predicted that my third grade students would be using a 3D printer every day, doing Mystery Number Skypes with classrooms in different countries, or blogging with students in other states about the books we’re reading. In five years, I think we’ll continue to move toward even more online, connected learning for both students and teachers.
What outside experience prepared you best to become a teacher?
I came to teaching as a second career so I have a solid perspective on the skills students will need to be successful in a global workforce. I work hard to foster each student’s ability to think critically, to problem solve collaboratively, to question at increasingly higher levels, and to create/make with confidence and flexibility. These are the skills that I believe will make them more productive, engaged citizens.