Voices from the Classroom: The State Teachers of the Year Podcast

Voices from the Classroom: The State Teachers of the Year Podcast

My First Lesson of the Year: Ep1: Lynette Stant, 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year

October 14, 2020

In an effort to explore this shift in education and highlight how teachers are rising to the challenge, CCSSO is launching Voices from the Classroom: The State Teacher of the Year Podcast. Through the first series, My First Lesson of the Year, we hear directly from the 2020 State Teachers of the Year on what the return to school was like from an educators’ perspective.



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>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: [Background Music] Hey everyone, Sarah Brown-Wessling here from the Council of Chief State School Officers National Teacher of the Year Program. And I'm excited to introduce Voices from the Classroom, the State Teacher of the Year podcast. CCSSO's National Teacher of the Year Program provides a platform for exceptional educators to elevate issues that affect teachers and their students to expand their leadership roles and to inform policy and practice. I was named National Teacher of the Year in 2010 and since then, I've been committed to sharing the stories and elevating the voices of state teachers of the year. It is my hope that this podcast will give you insight into the incredible work they do. As we are very much aware, the 2020-2021 school year is so different from anything we could have imagined. Not only do the physical classroom environments look different for students, they feel different. As educators navigate responding to two radical changes in our society, the COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened awareness of institutionalized racism. Through this first series, my first lesson of the year, we hope to capture the true essence of the return to school from an educator's perspective. In these episodes, the 2020 State Teachers of the Year will walk us through the ways they are approaching instruction and maintaining a connection with their students in this new environment. You can join the conversation on social media too, by using the hashtag ntoy20 or by visiting us online at ntoy.org. That's N-T-O-Y.org. Let's begin. Hello, this is Sarah Brown-Wessling. Welcome Lynette Stant, we are so excited to have you here as part of this conversation today.


>> Lynette Stant: I am so glad to be here.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Wonderful. Can you introduce yourself for us?


>> Lynette Stant: Absolutely. I'm going to introduce myself in my native language first and then in English.


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So, I introduced myself in Navajo to make a connection to other Dene people who are in the audience -- who possibly might be in the audience and that's how we connect as family. And so --


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah.


>> Lynette Stant: -- that's really important in my culture. But in English, I am Lynette Stant and I teach third grade on the Salt River Indian Reservation, and have been teaching in Salt River for the past 15 years. I am currently Arizona's 2020 Teacher of the Year.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Wonderful. So, can you tell us about one of the first lessons that you taught this year?


>> Lynette Stant: Absolutely. I started off my year by teaching a social emotional lesson, which is so different than how I've previously taught or started off this school year before. And so, the social emotional lesson was really about connecting with students and find out gauging where they were in the midst of this pandemic, because I had not seen students since March. And so, to have a conversation about where they were in the midst of the pandemic was really important. And it was a school-wide initiative.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Wonderful. Can you tell us how -- I mean, I think we kind of came here but how is this lesson different than maybe how you would usually start the year?


>> Lynette Stant: It was so different. One, it was virtual so.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Right.


>> Lynette Stant: We didn't get to see students face-to-face, but in the past, you know, the school year starts off with so much excitement, kids coming into your room and, you know, we're just so happy to see each other after a long summer and getting to know your kind of activities. So, starting with a social emotional lesson was really different because it was -- I want to say it was a little somber, because you began to hear some of the struggles that students were facing since last March. Some of them had lost family members. Some other family members have -- were diagnosed with COVID. And then, their whole -- hearing about how their whole community had changed, but also how scared they were about coming back to school. And some even to this day are really fearful about coming back to school. So that was definitely different. It was a different vibe for sure.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: For sure. So I know there are so many teachers who are listening and I just know they're wondering how you created the kind of space virtually and at the beginning of the year, and with young learners that would allow them to be so vulnerable and open with you, you know, right at the beginning.


>> Lynette Stant: I think part of it is my personality. I have a very soft voice and so just my demeanor with students probably helped facilitate that space.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah.


>> Lynette Stant: But also sharing my vulnerabilities about how I was feeling and what I've experienced since March. And allowing parents to be part of the conversation, you know, I had parents who were sitting with students having the conversation with them. And so, you know, having a child's parent right next to them, they were a little bit more willing, feeling a little bit more safe, and -- which is also different. You know, typically, we don't have parents, you know, the whole day of the first day of school, but this is a little different. So, just really creating that calm -- calming place and letting them know that validating their feelings and letting them know that they're not -- it's not an isolated feeling.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah, absolutely. Were there specific questions you asked, or did you just kind of open up the conversation? And because you did have, you know, the whole family there, which I think is wonderful as well, you know, it's a different way for us to think about, not just having parents working in the same spaces that their kids are learning, but actually inviting everyone to be part of it together.


>> Lynette Stant: You know, I think by the time I got to see kids in early August, you know, like I said, I hadn't seen them since March, they were so ready to talk towards each other.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah.


>> Lynette Stant: So it really just started with so how is -- how are you doing? I've, you know, I've missed you, since March, I haven't seen any kids and it's so exciting to see you. And then, you know, it just literally opened the floodgates to --


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah.


>> Lynette Stant: -- you know, they're third grader, so they're willing to --


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Right.


>> Lynette Stant: -- share and talk.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: That's beautiful. Is there anything that you learned about either your students -- well, clearly you learned about how they were doing. Is there anything you learned about creating that community or the importance of community, or even just what it means to teach in a pandemic?


>> Lynette Stant: Oh my gosh, I think the biggest lesson I've learned is how important it is to connect with families, if not weekly, but daily -- some need daily check-ins, but also being willing to be flexible with this learning platform because not all families are ready. I think there's an assumption that everybody knows how to use an online platform, how to, you know, manipulate through, say something like ClassDojo, how to open an online document and write on a document. And so, there's that assumption. So, I've really learned some patience and, you know, sometimes there's days when it's the same family reaching out for help, and even though you've showed up over and over, they still need that support every single day. And so, what I've learned is that how important it is to connect with families. And I'm definitely going to carry this on past the pandemic.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Right.


>> Lynette Stant: You know, I've always connected with families, but not so I guess intimately that we're hearing what they really need and, you know, I have -- so I teach ELA reading and collectively, I have 36 students, but I have a homeroom students of about 12. And so, with my 12 students, really looking almost every single one of them, have an individual learning format.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Sure, sure.


>> Lynette Stant: Yeah.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: And really be able to pay attention to that.


>> Lynette Stant: Yeah. You know --


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Just I --


>> Lynette Stant: I was going to say, if there is anything that's positive about teaching through a pandemic, is really being able to individualize work and meet the family's needs. I mean, it definitely takes a lot of time and effort, but it's so valuable because they definitely need it.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah. And I love that you're seeing that, you know, seeing the positive. It's so easy to focus on the things that are challenging and difficult and frustrating. And I love the way that you are surfacing the parts of this that we can learn from and hang on to.


>> Lynette Stant: Yeah.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: And I think it's so important to take your lesson about -- thinking about whole families, right? Not just students and parents separately, but thinking about whole families and how we are all in this community together. We are all part of this together.


>> Lynette Stant: Absolutely. And at third grade, there's -- they still need parental support when it comes to working on -- in a digital platform.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yeah.


>> Lynette Stant: You know they're not as independent as say, a sixth grader or a high school student. So they still need support. So you definitely have to include the family in that discussion.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: Yup. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for your time and your insights. I know these are going to be so valuable for so many teachers.


>> Lynette Stant: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.


>> Sarah Brown-Wessling: [Background music] Thank you for listening to the first series of Voices from the Classroom, the State Teacher of the Year podcast. This podcast is brought to you by the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Teacher of the Year Program. It's our honor to elevate the voices of educators across the country and provide them with a national platform to amplify their message and advocate on behalf of their students and colleagues. Please share these lessons on social media with the hashtag ntoy20. That's hashtag N-T-O-Y 2, zero. Let's keep the conversation going.


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