By Tiana Diggs
Science Teacher, Ánimo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School
Green Dot's 2017 Teacher of the Year
I was a first year teacher with Green Dot Public Schools, and at my very first All Green Dot Day I remember feeling so lost and overwhelmed with all I had to do to prepare for my students. Out of nowhere, a gentleman walked over to me, and it was as if he could sense my confusion. He sat down and we spoke about my major classroom stressors, and he proceeded to share his entire hard drive of curriculum materials with me.
I walked away from that collaboration with two things: the first was a plethora of resources I could use to help me structure my lessons effectively; the second was a promise I made to myself that I was going to pay his help forward, thus began my commitment to coaching.
This meant that if I had an entire hard drive full of curriculum, anyone else could have it too, which led me to establishing a shared drive that other teachers could look through when they needed content support. This also meant being a resource for teachers who just needed someone to brainstorm with, and to provide feedback. It ultimately meant that I would do my best to support any teacher who needed it, in whichever way they needed that support. Coaching other teachers became a fulfillment of my All Green Dot Day promise.
Today, I am not only a Physical Sciences teacher, but also a Demo Classroom teacher, an Instructional Leadership teacher, a Professional Development Leader, and a New Mentor teacher. Through these roles I have the privilege of coaching and mentoring teachers from across the Green Dot network, in addition to the 18 teachers at my school, Ánimo James B.Taylor Middle School.
Coaching other teachers has helped me to become a better educator because it has forced me to reflect upon my own teaching practices and identify ways to grow. I am better at reflecting, and thus able to encourage more strategic and intentional decision-making. I have also become a better planner, thoroughly thinking through lessons and group structures, and using data to guide my instruction and classroom choices. Through coaching my peers, I’ve gained new insight into my own practice.
Mentorship as a Growth Tool
Coaching and support has been an integral part of my own growth as a teacher. I started my career with Green Dot as a substitute teacher at Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy, and was fortunate enough to work with Principal James Marin. He took me under his wing and began to mentor me. From that moment on, I continued to push harder through the challenges of being a first year teacher because I knew that teaching was more than a passion; more importantly, it was my calling. I fall in love with teaching over and over each time I witness the “light bulb moment”-- the idea clicking inside of students’ minds when they understand something. Seeing my students’ faces brighten up is my motivation every day.
I attribute my passion for science in particular to experiencing the subject differently when I was a student. It felt like the book taught us, instead of us learning through our own exposure to science. Because of this I knew I wanted students to feel and master the subject, and to bridge the gap between middle school and high school science. My husband also inspired me, and he got me thinking about how I could become an integral part of building the middle to high school science bridge. As a science teacher, I get to be a part of transforming instruction so it’s more hands-on for our students, allowing them to be a part of science instead of just reading about it. Students may forget some of what we read on Wednesday, but they never forget those experiential learning moments.
It Takes a Village
This year I was honored to be nominated and selected as Teacher of the Year at the Fifth Annual Green Dot Awards. When I accepted the award, I began by acknowledging all of the people who helped make achieving this award possible, and this continues to ring true for me every day.
There are so many people who have encouraged my growth and development as a teacher through coaching. From my school leadership team, to my Curriculum Specialist and Teacher Effectiveness Support Specialist -- they have all played a pivotal role in my effectiveness as a teacher.
I am forever grateful to Green Dot for investing in my growth, so I can, in turn, invest in the professional development of my colleagues, who are so tirelessly committed to the progress and future of our students.