One In A Million Feature
Name: Whitney Henkel
School: Madrid Neighborhood School
Grade: 7th AND 8th
How long have you been a teacher?
This year makes 11 years.
What made you get into the teaching profession?
I come from a family of teachers and several teachers spotted my teaching potential when I was in school. The one I remember most was my Spanish teacher, Senor Klein. After giving a presentation in class he asked me if I was going to be a teacher and said that I had a natural teaching talent.
Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
My most inspirational teacher was my high school biology teacher (Mrs. Schramm). She really knew her content and I was fascinated by her lessons every day. I was a quieter student and the fact that years later she remembered me in her class really made her stand out to me as an exceptional teacher.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
One of the biggest challenges that teachers are facing in Arizona is what I like to call the war on education. This is where people have little to no knowledge of how education works and spread personal beliefs without facts to back it up. This especially creates challenges for funding schools here in education because so much money has been taken out of schools that when money is allocated to a school to help with something that is lacking because of this inefficient funding, people are quick to question why schools need additional money. They don’t understand that so much money has been taken out that when some money is given, it only fills a small need and there are so many more.
I attended elementary school in Lubbock, Texas and when I compare my elementary school experience to students’ today, it really breaks my heart.
How do these issues affect your day to day?
I am lucky to work at a school and district that ensures that students have access to all the supplies they need, but we really work hard to build partnerships to help make this happen. We could not truly support our students without employees who go above and beyond and a community that wants our students to be successful.
What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
I appreciate any money that allows me to support my students, but we are two months in and I have already spent more than that to really give my students quality learning experiences.
How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different from reality?
There are so many logistical hurdles that have to be accomplished that new teachers do not expect. When you are becoming a teacher all of your focus in on the classroom with the students in the room. However, there are so many paperwork and accountability responsibilities that prevent teachers from focusing on preparation for actual teaching and this leads many new teachers to feeling discouraged because there is little time left to create truly dynamic lessons. Typically, new teachers have to make a decision between spending time with their loved ones/resting the night before and planning/providing feedback so students can have a great educational experience. The emotional weight behind feeling like they are failing their students for taking time for themselves is what leads to a lot of discouragement in new teachers.
Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
Typically, new teachers have to make a decision between spending time with their loved ones/resting the night before and planning/providing feedback so students can have a great educational experience. The emotional weight behind feeling like they are failing their students for taking time for themselves is what leads to a lot of discouragement in new teachers.
Supports need to be put in place for new teachers and the emotional manipulation of teachers to sacrifice every aspect of their lives needs to stop.
What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
Professionally, taking time to really talk with my students and hear their thoughts and opinions on things (even random things) really “fills my cup.” I love the excitement they show and hearing their middle school perspectives. Teaching middle school is the best.
Personally, spending time with my family and friends “fills my cup.” Even spending a few minutes with them makes my heart light. (Especially my nieces and nephews. There are no words to communicate how much I love all 9 of them)
What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
The most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude is to take the time to express their gratitude by giving us a shout out or letting us know what we did that stood out to them.
As teachers, we don’t always get praise for ways we go above and beyond and to have this expressed by a parent or community member either to me personally or to my principal or district would really make my day.
What is your wish for Arizona’s children?
My wish for Arizona’s children is that they receive everything they need so they understand the opportunities that our society provides for them so they can make an educated choice about how to impact the world around them.
What additional support or supplies do you need in your classroom and who do people contact if they want to help out?
Right now, I have a strong need for books on Financial Literacy. My students (especially my 8th graders) really want to learn about how to manage money and they would love to read about it.
With 160ish new students every year, I also ALWAYS need quality reading materials that expose students to wide range of perspectives. Anything that helps me get my students reading is what I need.
Right now, I am using Donors Choose to help get materials for my classroom.