Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.
Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Rachel Hassman, a second-grade teacher in Nampa, Idaho. She claims her best friends are 7 to 8-year-olds who are silly and creative, yet more capable than we give them credit for. She started her education at Northwest Nazarene University where she was recruited as a soccer player, started her undergrad as pre-med, then switched later to an education degree. She also has a master’s degree in curriculum, innovation, and instruction. Receiving a master’s degree in administration may be in her future as well! A certain part of their future is their first baby coming soon, how exciting! Read what Mrs. Hassman has to say about teaching below.
What made you want to go into teaching?
“I originally began college as a pre-med student. I have always loved science and I only saw myself in a career that was geared towards community and public service. Through many conversations with my mom (who is also an incredible 2nd-grade teacher!), I began to realize that the career I wanted was in education and not in the medical field. As a young person, my only idea of “helping” was to heal the sick. After being involved in a few mission trips and serving opportunities I began to realize that education is the tool that many families and communities need in order to make real growth and change happen. Education is transformative in that it can empower the educated individual to become whoever they want to be. There is no geographic movement, living situation, or amount of poverty that can take away your knowledge. Schools are the link between families, services, success, and so much more. I realized that I wanted in on this transformative work so I changed my major and never looked back!”
What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it?
“A big challenge I face daily is student behavior. I teach in a school whose population is 92% below the poverty line. Our entire building receives free breakfast and lunch. I have many students who are homeless and many more who live in foster care. Because of these demographics (and all that comes along with these living situations), students arrive in my room with countless past and current trauma’s affecting their emotional well-being. Before I even have the chance to intervene academically I have the challenge of teaching emotional regulation and creating an environment of safety. Fostering Resilient Learners was an amazing read and it taught me how to recognize, empathize, and work with students dealing with the effects of trauma. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who works with people because chances are, we’ve all been through something!”
What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching?
“You’re going to get punched. You’re going to have to forgive the kid. And you’re going to have to greet him with a smile the very next day. Crazy, unpredictable things are going to happen with your group and your year. Every year. You absolutely HAVE to lean into your support systems. I can remember calling our instructional coach into my room for 5 minutes so I could leave and let out a good, frustrated cry. I can also remember waiting way too long to call on my principal for help in many difficult situations. I also didn’t value a relationship with our school counselor in my first year. Now, in year 4, she is as much a counselor and support system for me as she is for my students. You have so much support in your building. Look for it, ask for it, and be so grateful for it.”
How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught?
“There is always something new. Some years everything is new! This is one of the things I love about teaching. There is almost nothing I am currently doing that I did in my first year. Constant change, updating, and researching creates the kind of learning environment kids need: one that fits them! The biggest change I’ve seen in my own teaching is the attention to differentiation. I no-longer teach the bulk of my day whole group. In fact, there is very little I do whole group! Most of my time is spent meeting in differentiated groups that are fluid and change weekly and sometimes daily. I see this as a shift in education as a whole as well. Increased access to technology helps in the differentiation of students’ independent work. I’ve been introduced to many different programs that can help fill gaps in phonics, math facts, etc. These are incredibly helpful to me so while students work independently on filling their own gaps, I can focus on a small group and the exact needs of that group.”
Who influenced you most to choose a career in education?
“My mom! I grew up in her classroom before and after school and I always knew how much she loved her job. She has always been an incredible example of serving her community through teaching (and many other endeavors). I’ve known my whole life that her job also allowed her to be a really good mom for me and my brothers. That is something I value as well -my husband and I are expecting our first baby in May of 2020! She may not know it, but just by watching my mom all those years, she made teaching seem like the best job in the whole world. Then when college came along, she was so helpful to guide me through my transition from the pursuit of the medical field to the pursuit of education. She was patient and encouraging in my search for what was always right there in front of me!”
Rachel has great advice for all of us, especially what she has to say to first-year teachers! That is advice any teacher can use. Thanks for the great interview, Rachel, and congrats on the new baby coming soon!