New Teacher Advocate — Winter 2011
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A Conversation With Anna Shults, 2007 Indiana Teacher Of The Year
Stephanie Schaefer

Focused and on a mission for student literacy, Anna Shults is one of those educators who inspires students to become teachers. Her effervescence and energy are contagious. Named Indiana Teacher of the Year in 2007, she is an active member of Kappa Delta Pi and serves on its Public Policy Committee.

I caught up with her just before this academic year began for an interview about her beginning teaching experiences and what drives her to be a successful and compassionate educator.

What do you teach?

I graduated from Anderson University (Anderson, IN) in 1996 and have taught elementary school in Fishers, Indiana ever since. Currently, I am on leave from my classroom, working as a Literacy Specialist for the Indiana Department of Education on behalf of our State Superintendent.

Why did you decide to go into teaching?
Teaching has been my passion ever since

More from Anna

Turning K-6 Kids onto Reading and Writing A Webinar with Anna Shults I was old enough to mimic my own teachers as I played school in my basement. It is a calling that constantly lets you give back, and one where the impact of your actions lives on far beyond the scope of what you can imagine.

What was your greatest challenge as a new teacher and how did you work through it?

Upon graduating from college I was so excited for my first classroom. I had ideas galore, file folders of lesson strategies, and tubs of essential school supplies. Yet the reality of the classroom hit pretty hard, as I realized I didn’t have all the answers and was easily overwhelmed by the daily demands of teaching third grade.

I quickly learned that my colleagues were my best resource, full of deep expertise in situations that mirrored my own. Knowing who to turn to for guidance and support was a key to surviving— and enjoying!—my first year in the classroom.

What have you learned about children and teaching that surprised you when you first entered the classroom?

I quickly realized that I couldn’t do it alone and needed to solidify a cooperative partnership with each student’s parent or guardian. Together, parents, student, and teacher make a strong team!

Who and what inspires you and your teaching?

Oh, that’s easy! My students inspire me!

Each year I’m blessed to have a roster of 25 amazing little learners who trust me to teach them all I know—in a manner that makes them thrive. After all, teachers work for their students. We run errands late at night because Matthew read about a cool science experiment that we just have to try the very next day. We purchase special books on horses because that’s the only thing that inspires Mallory to read. We give our all and, in return, expect nothing less from them.

What is the best lesson plan you’ve taught in the classroom?

I don’t know that a single lesson stands out, but I do know from experience that lessons that allow students to draw their own conclusions and that are aligned to the learning styles of the students always are the most effective. We work hard researching best practices and searching out dynamic materials that meet a lesson’s objective. That’s important, yet often the best learning experiences are ones where, through direct application, students discover independently.

What was your reaction when you heard you were named Indiana Teacher of the Year?

Being honored as Indiana’s Teacher of the Year was a huge shock. It’s not as though my math lesson is better than anyone else’s. As reality set in, though, I felt the impact of the honor this designation represented. The significance of the moment was humbling and, since then, I have strived every day to uplift the profession.

What can new teachers bring to the interviewing table to present themselves as the best teacher for the position?

Confidence. Interviewers don’t expect recent graduates to have gobs of experience, but they Want to know the candidates are ready for the experience. So speak confidently. Emphasize opportunities related to teaching that you have had, lessons you learned from them, and how they apply in your own classroom.

Questions. This may surprise you, but my second answer is “questions.” Asking questions shows the interviewer that you’ve done your homework about the school district. Asking questions also helps paint a realistic picture of the position and the school community. Researching the school, its district, and its surrounding community will help you know the questions you want answered.

What other advice do you have for new teachers?

Educators entering the profession, vibrant with the excitement of simply wanting to teach, need to realize that they are teacher leaders—whether they feel it or not. They possess current knowledge and innovative ideas. They are filled with enthusiasm, so they should act on it.

New teachers must be contagious. They must ask questions. They need to collaborate with colleagues and partner with parents. They must strive to make each child in their class feel like a number one priority. In return, they will experience a sense of fulfillment unlike any other.

After interviewing Anna Shults, I realized that she is a true model of an educator. I have been inspired to learn from my students and to present myself as an enthusiastic, caring, and compassionate teacher to all those that I meet. She is truly demonstrative of a leader in education: one who wants to collaborate with others and motivate them to reach their highest potential.

Every student learns in his or her own little way, and it’s my job to tap into that. I try to make each activity meaningful. —Anna Shults

New Teacher Advocate goes digital!

Http://bit.lyNTAw11v19 Thanks to The Watkins Printing Company, printer of New Teacher Advocate and sponsor for Convo 2011, Crossroads of Excellence.

Ms. Schaefer, a Graduate Assistant at the University of Scranton, serves as the 2010–2012 Student Representative on the KDP Executive Council and on the Advisory Panel for NTA. You can follow her @studentrepkdp.