Educator profile: Kettering teacher prepares the next generation

The Dayton Daily News is profiling educators who are overcoming obstacles to prepare the next generation.

Name: Terri Weiss

School District: Kettering City Schools

Grade you teach: 9-12 Intervention Specialist, English

What is your favorite subject? English, Government, Social Studies

What/Who inspired you to become a teacher? In 2008, the publishing company I worked at for seven years closed unexpectedly. My next job at a publisher in Cincinnati ended after 11 months when that company also closed. The State of Ohio offered to train me for a new career, and I earned my M.Ed. which allowed me to get my Ohio teaching license. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. St. Denis, is the teacher I model myself after because she taught me the writing process I still use and also encouraged me and every student she had to find passion in learning. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching? I love watching students grow as people and find issues they are passionate to learn about. I enjoy hearing their thoughts and opinions. Often adults do not just listen to teenagers and young adults, and they have so much to share. 

What is a memorable experience you’ve had while teaching? In my first three years as a teacher, I learned to see each student as their own unique person. One student during that time struggled with many personal and health issues, and he did not believe he could graduate. He DID graduate, and his graduation party is my most treasured memory. He passed away in a car accident not long after his graduation, and the fact that his family chose to include an image of his high school ring on his headstone highlighted his pride in being a graduate. I have remained in contact with his family, and I love keeping his memory alive because he was an amazing person.

How have you maneuvered online classes and distance learning? Like most teachers faced with crisis online learning, I made mistakes and struggled to find ways to keep students engaged. This was especially true for seniors in my classes. Setting up a live video link which remained open all day (7 a.m. to at least 10 p.m.) was the most effective way to reach and support students struggling with the online learning classes. It was extremely effective, but it required a great deal of flexibility on my part as well as other staff. It was worth it because several seniors even included their parents/guardians as they became anxious towards the end of fourth quarter. The paraprofessional I work with was able to tutor students on-on-one in subjects like algebra and personal finance, keeping them motivated to complete graduation requirements.

How can families adapt to be successful during these challenging educational times? Parents/guardians need to email, message, text, & call teachers or staff and also respond to messages in order to best support their students. I understand parents are overwhelmed with the amount of automated messages from online programs and school administrators, but simply sharing this with teachers can result in suggestions to reduce their stress and keep students on-track when the work or the instruction method is frustrating. (Tip: many automated messages can be turned off or sent to an email folder to be checked later, reducing student anxiety and preventing “reader burnout” for the parent/guardian.)