Welcome to our weekly series of #TeacherTruth Thursdays! Every Thursday, check back here for the latest interview with teachers from across the globe. This Thursday, I was able to interview Hannah Leib, first grade teacher at Geff Grade School in rural, southern Illinois. Hannah is a first year teacher (oh man, do I remember the struggle!) and she is known as Miss Leib to her kiddos, but as she says, "there’s always a day when I get 'Mom', 'Leiv, or 'Miss Leaf'".
Describe your teaching journey. What major (or minor) events have led you to where you are today?
It all started in the 4th grade when I had an amazing teacher by the name of Sue Burt. At the first of the school year I was very hesitant to be in her classroom because she’s a very vocal and vibrant person, unlike myself at that point in my life. I grew to realize she truly cared for me and my future while I was in her classroom. She taught me how to be a kind and caring person while also teaching me very valuable life lessons. One lesson I vividly remember is when I was taking a science test that I hadn’t studied for. I decided that I could be sly and keep my study guide in my desk to look off of while “trading erasers and pencils.” Being a fourth grader and not very sneaky, I was busted. Instead of Mrs. Burt taking my test away and not giving me another chance to take the test, she offered another solution. She had me right an apology letter to my parents explaining what I had done and why I was sorry for cheating. Not only did Mrs. Burt show me grace in that situation, she also taught me a valuable lesson that I strive to instill in my students.
Throughout my school years, I had many other wonderful teachers who taught me to love learning but more importantly to keep trying no matter how tough it may be. Fast Forward to my Senior year of high school when I somehow received a brochure about the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program in the mail. I decided to put off filling out the scholarship application until a couple days before the due date. Never in my dreams would I have known how much of an impact the Scholars program had on my teaching career and my personal life. During one of my four summer institutes I was placed in a classroom with a teacher who taught me what I should NEVER do in a classroom. This woman did some things that would make a person cringe and I would leave at lunch every day worrying about what she would do while I was gone. During my time in that classroom I learned that a teacher has an enormous impact of how a student feels about him/herself. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be the teacher that made every child feel like he/she was the most important child in my classroom. It has been a long journey to get me to where I am today but I wouldn’t change it for the fact that I learned so many life lessons along the way.
What are the biggest obstacles that you’ve faced this year of teaching?
With this being my first year of teaching, there have been many different obstacles throughout this year. One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced is finding the balance between work and home. It’s been difficult to take time in the evenings to just spend time doing something that I enjoy and isn’t related to school. I truly do enjoying planning engaging and fun lessons for my students so most nights I don’t mind putting in the extra hour to plan and prepare for the next day.
Another obstacle that I’ve found challenging is how to establish a good communication avenue between myself and my students’ parents. This is something that I’ve set as a personal goal during the second half of the school year. I’ve tried to contact every parent at least once a month telling them a positive thing that their student has done in the classroom. Parent communication is something that I aim to grow in every year during my teaching career.
What are the greatest joys that you’ve experienced this year of teaching?
I absolutely love going to school everyday and seeing my first graders so excited and ready to learn! In my classroom we do a morning meeting before our calendar time. I’ve recently started a “morning greeting” before our morning meeting in which I greet every student. The fun part about the morning greeting is that the students get to choose how they want to be greeted whether it’s a hug, high five, or handshake. It makes my morning much more enjoyable when I receive 8 or 9 hugs! Another joy that I’ve experienced this year is seeing my students look out and care for each other. At the beginning of the school year I told the students that we are a family in this class and it has truly been a joy to see them love and care for each other. This past week the students brought in a box to decorate for our Valentine’s day party and I saw the students really bond and help each other create adorable boxes all on their own. It was a heartwarming moment to step back and watch them work together. Overall, I love watching kids be kids and hearing the hilarious things they say!
Why did you want to become a teacher? Do those reasons still resonate with you? Are you still inspired by those ideas?
As I mentioned earlier, I had a teacher who had such a large impact on my life and ultimately I wanted to do the same for my students. Young children are so impressionable and I want to leave a positive mark on their life. I always wanted to inspire children to be the person they never thought they could be. Teaching is a great way to inspire kids to learn something they never knew about before. From there, they branch out and find something that they will love for a lifetime whether it's researching new medicine, creating masterpieces, or becoming another teacher. Another reason I wanted to become a teacher was to teach kids to love learning. I want my students to find something they love learning about and continue to grow in knowledge throughout their lifetime. Some days I forget why I wanted to teach because every day isn’t always the best. But there are always moments when one of my students looks at me and says they don’t want to go home because they love school. It’s moments like those that still inspire me to teach.
What is your favorite lesson plan that you’ve taught this year?
I did a thematic unit at Christmas time about holidays around the world and I had so much fun learning alongside my students about a variety of countries and how they celebrate Christmas or another winter holiday. We took several trips around the world to various countries such as Italy, France, Mexico, Germany, Sweden, and England. We learned what the children do during the holidays and how families celebrate together. The most fun was learning what the Santa figure is in those countries and how he delivers gifts. I had an absolute blast bringing in other cultures and learning how to say Merry Christmas in six other languages! It really made me step back and smile when I saw my kids attempting to say “Merry Christmas” in another language and watching them tell the other classes how other people celebrate Christmas around the world. Overall that was by far my favorite lesson from this year!
I used the Christmas Around the World Scrapbook by Sarah Cooley from Teachers Pay Teachers.
How are you handling your work/life balance?
This has by far been the most difficult part of being a first year teacher. I have been so swamped with school stuff that most days I don’t stop working until my head hits the pillow at night. On top of school, I’ve also been planning my wedding which is so much fun but a huge undertaking. Most days I feel like I’m acrobat trying to balance school, wedding planning, and life. I’ve made it a point to take a little time in the morning or at night to have some quiet time and really just spend time reading my Bible and being still. My faith in our everloving God is the reason that keeps me going. I know that no matter how tough and stressed I get, I know that God is always there to hear my concerns and loves me so deeply through it all. I give him all the glory for this first year of teaching!
What advice do you have for other teachers?
One piece of advice that I have for other teachers especially at the elementary level is to keep your kids active in the classroom. I’ve found a website that my students and I LOVE!!! It’s called GoNoodle and it has a variety of videos to help get the wiggles out and to also have fun. I love using the stretching in the mornings to get the kids calm and focused. Some of the dancing videos are our favorites if we’ve been sitting for quite some time. All in all, its an awesome FREE website that I highly recommend.
I would say to the veteran teachers to remember why you wanted to teach and keep that in the front of your thoughts when you hear about all the changes that are taking place during this day and age. Another thing that older teachers should remember is how to step out of their comfort zone and try something new like incorporating more technology into their everyday lessons or having the students be more creative with their projects and how they present. Technology can be such a scary thing for most veteran teachers but I know that there are plenty of teachers like myself who would be more than willing to lend a hand to teach them how to use it in the classroom.
All in all, I would have to say to any aspiring teacher or veteran teacher is that teaching is such a rewarding and prestigious profession but we have to make the effort to find the good in the little things every day in order to see the long term outcomes in the future.
Thanks for reading!
You can connect with Hannah on social media here:
Facebook: Hannah Leib
Pinterest: Hannah Leib