A recipient of this year’s Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, Caitlin McKenna is a guidance teacher at Ralph C Mahar Regional School in Greenfield. You can read in her responses below that she believes in students and their resilience.
What motivated you to become a teacher/educator? I was motivated to become an educator, specifically a guidance counselor, through my work with children and families in my earlier professional life. I was also motivated by my own struggles as a teenager and I wanted to be “there” to help teens sort through the complications on the way to becoming a functional adult.
What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration? The teens who I work with keep me enthusiastic every day. A student who finds the resilience to keep facing a difficult social or academic situation and tries to resolve that situation is inspirational, and this happens every day.
Who has been a role model for you and why? I have several role models- my original teaching role model is Merrilee Kane, who taught me that youth are always learning and that while they may make social mistakes, if we guide them well, these mistakes will become the conduit to becoming a successful adult.
Do you have a favorite resource, website, lesson/activity that you’d like to share? My colleagues are my favorite resource, also books by Jane Healy and Pamela Tanguay.
How do you try to balance the demands of your professional and personal life? I have an active family and I work hard to be there for my own children + I do yoga.
What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation? Be nice to the school administrative assistants. They often run the school. I would add school maintenance staff as well.
Anything else you’d like to add? It is always important to keep focused on the students. The changing rules, tests, bureaucracy can be discouraging but if the kids can face it and thrive, so can I!