By Kristine “Aster” Medina, Editor-in-chief
For the final spotlight of the teacher appreciation series, we feature Kellee “Thrive” Duong, a Georgia State University alumna. Duong teaches mathematics and literacy at Ferguson Elementary School in Duluth, Ga.. She told us about how the children she teaches inspire her to make a difference in their lives through kindness and positivity.
What do you teach? Where?
I teach mathematics and literacy for fifth grade at Ferguson Elementary School in Duluth for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
What does a typical day look like for you during the school year?
A typical day for me looks like the following: I greet students at the door as they come in the morning. Students grab their breakfast and begin working on their morning work. Next, we meet on the carpet for our morning meeting where we greet each other, share about a topic, talk about what our day looks like/schedule, and do an activity together (math around the world, 4-corners, heads up). I’m a big advocate for students moving and grooving in the morning to get their day started. Next students, come to the carpet for Writer’s Workshop. Then, they are dismissed to write independently around the room while I conference with students, and then we share our writing. Next, we go into guided reading where students will first come to the carpet for the mini-lesson. Afterward, they are dismissed to go into their groups (technology, engage in reading, activity, and a small group with Ms. Duong).
After reading, we move onto a math workshop. Very similar to reading, students will come to the carpet and then go into centers. I teach my own homeroom students literacy and math. I also teach two other classes in math, while my students transition to their science and social studies classes. We have “specials,” lunch and recess, in between transitions. I like to play kickball, volleyball and football with my students during recess. Students love it when we can have a full game going. After recess, my homeroom students come back in, and they listen to me read our read-aloud for the month. Once I’ve read, students pack up, read independently and wait for dismissal. On Fridays, we have book buddies with a first grade class.
Tell us a memorable story about working with your students.
When my class got in trouble during “specials,” I had to sit down and remind them about our expectations. As I was speaking, I mentioned I was disappointed in their actions because it’s not the first time this has happened before. Toward the end of the day, I received a note on my desk, and I proceeded to read it. In the note, one of my students wrote an apology letter to me by saying how she has not been on her best behavior because her best friend, her dog, has passed away. She continued to mention how saddened she was about what happened to her dog. I realized that she was quieter than usual. I continued to read the note as she mentioned how she doesn’t want to lose me either because I’m her best friend. After I read that note, I immediately hugged her for touching my heart with her words. She not only sees me as her teacher, but as a close friend. Notes like these remind and reaffirm why I chose teaching as a career.
What advice would you tell sisters going into education?
My advice to sisters going into teaching is that what you do matters, no matter how big or small. To me, teachers are the most emphatic people. I’ve learned so much from my co-workers along with my students. It can be challenging, but stay focused by making goals for yourself and your students. Be confident in your decisions, and stay consistent. Stay positive, and everything will be alright. I’d like to look forward years from now and think of this quote: “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” The job is not about the school, administrators or the curriculum itself, but it is about teachers who make students feel like they can achieve anything, if they put forth the effort. Just remember, you are the foundation of knowledge and the source of inspiration for your students.
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