Top Teacher: St. Albert the Great understands parents’ concerns

Name: Kimberly Embry

School District: St. Albert the Great in Kettering (Archdiocese of Cincinnati)

Grade you teach: 5th

What is your favorite subject? I teach Reading, Language Arts, and Science and I love all three, but I am more partial to reading. I like to take a book and make it a fun experience in the classroom. Whether it’s a relay race in sequencing a story or creating a “dig site” where they must refer back to a book for the answer on where to “dig” for a special prize. Books can be an adventure and I love to share that with students.

What/Who inspired you to become a teacher? I didn’t start out as a teacher. My first degree was in Anthropology. I had dreams of becoming a forensic scientist, but I always loved working with children. I started working with children through church and then through my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. My co-leader, Suzzi Luken (Sinclair Professor) was a big inspiration in my decision to go back to school and become a teacher. She encouraged me to do what I love and so I made the decision of going back to school. It turned out to be the right one for me.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? I love watching students in that “aha” moment. Where they finally understand something that they have struggled with for so long and you can see the exact moment it clicks. In addition, I love to take a subject or a topic that students find boring and reworking it in a way to engage them in learning. Even the most difficult or boring topics can be presented in a way that students will find interesting.

What is a memorable experience you’ve had while teaching? This is a hard one because I have had so many memorable experiences with them. There isn’t a specific moment that truly stands out. What is most memorable to me is the smiles and laughter that we have as a class. These students will always be “my kids” and I try to give them a family like atmosphere, where they feel secure and safe to show their amazing personalities.

How have you maneuvered online classes and distance learning? It wasn’t easy. As a teacher who is also a mom to three children of her own, it’s tough. When we were asked to do this, it was scary. We were told we had to teach online and we had only a week to figure out how to do it. We had to do what had never been done before, take traditional lessons and convert them. I utilized what students already knew and had access to, but then I had to figure out how to change my lessons from worksheets and Smartboard files to a format that allowed students to complete them online. It took hours and hours of work. I was working 10-12 hour days and sometimes more. I sent out schedules daily of what needed to be done, created videos of lessons (sometimes with my three year old popping into the background), and graded papers during the quiet hours at my home, typically from 12 am to 3 am. I also needed a way to communicate with students and so I offered e-mail support, Zoom, Google Meet, and chat daily. Once a week I would get together with the students on a Zoom and we would just talk and catch up and sometimes play a game. It was wonderful to see their faces again. I missed the interaction with the students.

How can families adapt to be successful during these challenging educational times? It’s hard. Everyone has a different home-life and right now education is a challenge. Whatever method you chose for your child, whether online or in person, just realize that your teachers understand. We are there with you and wish it didn’t have to be this way. Communicate with your child’s teacher. If your child is struggling, let us know. For me, every student will always be one of “my kids.” I want the best for them and will help in anyway that I can. Understand that teachers are struggling too. We have the same worries and are again being asked to take our plans for in person learning and modify them so that they are either all online or so that there is little interaction with the students and no group work. Being successful this year means that there must be more understanding and communication between teachers and parents.

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