What’s in my desk drawer: Karen Meyer takes out her most valuable advice


Meghan Krein

Karen Meyer has been teaching in public schools for more than 20 years, which is one of the reasons we wanted to sneak a peek into her desk drawer. The iTeachAZ site coordinator and ASU faculty member opened up and shared why she practices reflection on a regular basis, how to really know your students and her affinity for purple pens.

You’re in the unique position of seeing our teacher candidates through their teaching experience, and then seeing some of those same students hired as teachers in your district. What can you tell them to be prepared for in the first few years after their first year of teaching – after the “honeymoon” has worn off?

One thing that has been incorporated in my teaching is the understanding of working toward your personal best. It takes time to be amazing in all areas, so give yourself the time to become just that: amazing. Pick one new thing at a time to try or add to your repertoire. Be sure to reflect — on a regular basis — by writing in a daily journal, for example. On those days that the "honeymoon" has worn off, it's wonderful to look back at older entries and reread about great days in the classroom and see how far you’ve come.

What makes a good mentor teacher?

A good mentor teacher is hand picked by their principal based on their academic success. In addition, a mentor is a person who will spend every day with our teacher candidates, teaching and coaching them by using research-based strategies and techniques that lead to academic success for all students. They fill out biweekly progress reports to keep communication open with the site coordinators. Mentor teachers are an important part of our program. They share their expertise and knowledge to support and coach teacher candidates and help them to be successful future educators.

If you were talking to a group of current teachers and administrators in your district, how would you describe to them the teacher candidates coming through our programs?

The teacher candidates are part of a very rigorous and demanding program that truly prepares them to be successful in the teaching world. They are able to spend a full year learning from their mentor teacher's proven research strategies along with the TAP rubric [Teacher Advancement Program] that guides them to be proficient in eight important areas of education. They are truly prepared to enter a classroom and collaborate with a team to meet the needs of all students.

What can school districts expect from our graduates?

Teacher candidates who graduate from the iTeachAZ program are prepared and experienced educators. After spending 30 weeks in a classroom, they are ready to enter their own classroom and plan a meaningful curriculum that is focused on using research-based strategies that will be effective for all students' needs. They have learned how to provide meaningful feedback and classroom management that is essential to have in a successful classroom.

What challenges are unique to “career switcher” teachers — those who have come to education after working in other fields?

"Career switcher" teachers can make some of the best type of teacher candidates. They have proven to themselves that they have the desire to teach and make a difference. They have qualities they've learned from their first career that will surely support their desire to be an effective educator as they go through the iTeachAZ program. Their desire to make the change speaks volumes.

Are there any tidbits of information or helpful suggestions "For Educators" you could share?

If I could give the teacher candidates any tidbits of information, I would say to remember to build relationships with your students. Spend time getting to know them so they are ready to learn from you. When you take the time to know their likes, dislikes, hobbies and other areas of interest outside of school, you are making a difference and they will want to learn whatever you're teaching. Also, enjoy yourself and have fun!

OK, but what is literally in your desk drawer?

If you open it right now, you’ll find a Cliff bar, my to-do list, a journal, Post-its, gum and purple pens.

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