Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Most-Loved Mentor: Blogging Challenge Day 24

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Day 24: Who are/were your mentors? Who helped you grow as a teacher?

Mrs. Ruth Ann Dalenberg will always be my very first and most influential mentor.  She was my cooperating teacher during my student teaching experience.   During that time, I had many sleepless nights with my mind running wildly about what I needed to plan to keep 28 first graders engaged, motivated and enlightened in the learning process for each subject area.  

Ruth Ann seemed to be a natural with the first graders.  Since I was probably a bit insecure back then with my teaching abilities, she would always reassure me she'd been teaching first grade for approximately 30 years at that point, and one day very soon, I'd be a natural, too.  Yes, Ruth Ann was amazing at modeling effective teaching strategies and classroom management techniques, as well as sharing resources, but she also had a way of teaching me lessons I'd never forget.  

For instance, I'll always recall the time I had to teach a science lesson that incorporated the use of pinwheels.  Once the pinwheels had been created by the students, we were ready to "put them to the test" outdoors in the wind.  Ruth Ann asked me if I was ready to take the students outdoors.  Of course, I responded with, "Yes.  I'm looking forward to it!" with a smile on my face.  Looking back (hindsight is 20/20, you know), it was probably a clueless "boy-do-I-really-know-what-I'm-getting-into?" kind of smile, especially since she gave an eye-raise with her comment.  Anyway, the minute the kids stepped onto the playground with their pinwheels, it was a disaster!  They took their pinwheels RUNNING, RUNNING, RUNNING chaotically in every direction possible!  Some of the boys even used the pinwheels as imaginary weapons against one another on the playground equipment.  I stood there...dumbfounded...with the look of "Whoopsie!" on my face.   

Needless to say, Ruth Ann and I had a "constructive feedback" session to discuss how I felt the lesson went.  She would always say, "What did you do right and what could you work on?  Start with the positives."  My response to that particular lesson was, "Well, I'd better go over my expectations of what to do and what NOT to do before I let them loose outside!!"  

As one would expect, I learned a lot from her because she allowed me to make my own mistakes and be reflective in my practices.  I will always remember her and want to thank her (again) for everything. 

On my last day in her classroom, she presented me with a book as a gift.  I've used it in my own classroom for 19 years.  It finally sits on my bookshelf at home because of all the wear and tear.  I replaced it with another copy to share with my students.  It's one of my favorites!

My actual copy-
the binding fell apart,
so the pages no longer stay put.
On the inside cover, each student from my first class had placed his/her picture and signature.   

"Thank YOU, Ruth Ann. This book is priceless." 

When all is said and done, over the years, I became a cooperating teacher for 9 student teachers and a mentor to 5 new teachers in my district because I wanted to pay it forward...just as Ruth Ann did for me. ;)

By the way, any individual out there recall minor catastrophes during your student teaching experience?  I bet you learned from your mistakes!



  1. Loved this post. What a great mentor!

  2. I didn't realize I was learning so much during my student teaching experience, but much of what I do in the classroom can be dedicated to her. ;) Thanks for stopping by, Alison!

  3. Aw. My cooperating teacher was a genius. I just hope to teach like her one day! I called her the student whisperer. When she walked into a room, students listened and cooperated and were enthused and happy about it!

    1. I'm jealous. ;) I'd love to be a student whisperer. I'm more of one now than I was back in my student teaching days, though! ;-D

  4. Wow, she seems wonderful. For both the short people learning and the tall people learning. Great story!

  5. You are a fantastic mentor. Thanks for all you do for D100 new staff!!!


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