2020 Educator of Excellence: Beth Warner
Elizabeth (Beth) Warner always knew she wanted to be a teacher. From the time she was in kindergarten, she woudl draw herself as a teacher and was always playing pretend school. But as she got older, she recognized a disparity in the education sector that only added fuel to her fire.
“I think what made me want to teach in a context like Memphis is I went to a title one school in Dallas, and then we moved mid-year to Erie, Pennsylvania. [My new school was in] an affluent district and there were Mac books and brand new textbooks everywhere. I was so angry as a 13-year-old that my friends in Dallas were having to sit on the air conditioner because there weren't enough desks, textbooks were falling apart, and we didn't have computers. Then I moved and I'm getting this quality education just because my parents just decided to move us for my dad's job? That made me really angry, and I didn't now what to do about it. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I told myself I would go back to a school like the one I left because I felt like it was where I needed to be so.... here I am! I think what parents can afford for their kids shouldn't affect they way that their education is - especially in the same city.”
As a 10th grade English teacher at Whitehaven High School, Warner puts an emphasis on social and emotional learning in her classroom, making sure that that aspect isn’t lost in the high school setting.
In terms of her own professional development, she explains that leaning on other teachers has been a huge help.
“I've grown as an educator through collaboration in so many ways. But it's mostly that if you're an island there's only so many things that your instincts tell you to do. When you start to talk to people who have different personalities, who have different instincts, there's even just a shift in just the way that you say something that clicks with more kids. And so I've learned from older teachers what they say, and test prep, and so many things that are just skills that you don't think about. I think it also encourages me to really be on top of things because I know that if I'm asking people for help, they're eventually come back to me and ask. And so it's helped me be able to articulate what I'm doing better, it's helped me kind of let go of well this is my worksheet and I worked really hard on it, and it's like well what's the point of the worksheet? the point of the worksheet is to help kids. and so if I can share that with a colleague and do the same thing, then we're both growing because I'm able to explain it and they're able to use it.”
This year, Warner is developing hers skills in patience and giving herself and her students a lot more grace. With virtual learning, they’re all learning together. So whether it’s asking fun “random” questions to begin each class or little “brain breaks” throughout the day, she’s continuing to build those relationships with her students, one Zoom call at a time!