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Virginia Journal of Education

New Resolve

Every year, the calendar hands us all a fresh opportunity, a chance to shift our focus from where we've been to what lies ahead. Many people find that taking stock and setting goals in the form of New Year's resolutions is a helpful way of adding meaning to what's next.

With that in mind, here's what some educators around Virginia came up with when we asked them to lay out some hopes and aspirations for 2008:

Looking Up
My top resolution for 2008 concerns those moments, at school and at home, when I am facing a seemingly "impossible" challenge, whether it is a special education student whose learning needs are difficult, or a family issue. I resolve to pray as Abraham Lincoln did when assuming the office of president (as memorialized in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.). It went something like, "God, I do not feel capable of handling these responsibilities or resolving this problem, only with help from the Divine Creator can I do this job well."
Toni Dolan, LD teacher, Chesterfield County

Online Learning
My professional goals for 2008 will be to increase traffic to my classroom website, so that students have safe places to have fun while learning on the Internet, and to continue my participation as a presenter and master teacher with the National Teacher Training Institute. Other goals include going back and editing lesson plans on the computer (instead of by hand) so that in future years all I need to save is the file on a flash drive instead of worn printouts. More personal and yet professional goals include finding ways to move up as an educator, from gaining more teaching experience by teaching a college course online to starting a doctorate program in education with technology as a focus so that I may continue to keep my skills fresh and marketable.
Heather R. Ashley, technology teacher, Shenandoah County

Make it Fun
My resolution is to make learning fun for students in spite of the Standards of Learning.
Jeff Weaver, seventh grade science teacher, Augusta County

Go Hollywood
Most of my weekends include research for new ways to teach a subject, incorporate technology and enhance my background knowledge. This endeavor to make me a better teacher will continue. My students have entered many writing contests and many more are ahead. Also, a new goal is to have each student submit questions to the game show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" This activity will be a fun review for the SOLs. Most importantly, I plan to send confident, self-directed students with a love for learning to middle school.
Carole Marable, fifth grade teacher, Chesterfield County

Make it Worth the Ride
I think this quote by E.B. White says it all, and to me it's more than a resolution-it's the way I want to start living my life: "I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult."
Marianne Simpson, local systems administrator, Spotsylvania County

Leave No Child Behind
We (our reading teacher, Teresa Rogers, and me) have resolved to "catch" all the children who used to fall between the cracks, the children who don't qualify for any support services and may not have the parental support they need. Our school is filled with teachers who are excited about teaching and learning, who take their planning time to participate in comprehension book studies, who stay after school for Wednesday Workshops, who reach out to "Save One Student" with notes, treats, and encouragement, and who are overloaded with paperwork, meetings, technology requirements, and the myriad of other things teachers have to handle. We've resolved to relieve as much pressure as possible, to support their quest for time-saving management techniques, to help plan novel studies at independent reading levels, and to "push-in" as much as possible to reach the children with the greatest needs. God bless us, every one!
Nell P. Kvetko, reading specialist, Chesterfield County

Kick Up My Heels
Education has been a rewarding career for me for 33 years because each year is one of new challenges. You don't grow old; you grow young when you teach in public schools. My dream for 2008 is have a year of kicking up my heels with the students as we work together to make graduation a reality (my current assignment is Senior English).
Sharyn Billings, high school English teacher, Staunton

I have several New Year's resolutions: 1. To map out and get approved a strategic plan for the Arlington Education Association to include a five year plan that will increase membership and continue to increase the strength of local building level delegates and members. 2. To institute at least two new pieces of technology on the website that will speak to our younger members. 3. Remember to take some time for me, especially when I am so busy. 4. To spend time with my grown children.
Lee Dorman, science teacher, Arlington

Look for the Sparkle
I hope to excite my children and build in them a desire to become life-long learners. I love to see the twinkle in their eyes when they succeed.
Cheryle Hodges, fifth grade teacher, Spotsylvania County

Get 'Em Wired
I will try to teach what I believe students should know and be able to do in order to learn and live productively in an increasingly digital world.
Ruth Hollander, middle school computer teacher, Manassas

Open Doors
I plan to take my GRE and start work on my master's. As part of that degree, I want to gain certification in autism. I am also participating in VEA's Training for Trainers and hope to become a presenter in 2008.
Coralie Griffith, high school special education teacher, Suffolk

Work Smart
In 2008, I hope to complete some online courses for certification points, increase the membership of the Sussex Education Association within my school and school division, and to work smarter and not harder. I'd also like to spend more time with my family and less time on job-related responsibilities.
Ora J. Briggs, elementary special education teacher, Sussex County

Expand Credentials
I have decided to pursue National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification as a school counselor. This will allow my fellow teachers and the community to see that our school counselor is also firmly committed to the education of our students and to being the most highly qualified professional that I can be.
Michelle R. Cowin-Gantz, elementary school counselor, Manassas

Make it Happen
My professional aspirations for the coming year are a little different than they have been in the past. After 20 years of teaching, I'd like to spend less time on the preparations of teaching and spend more time on actually doing the job. Doing more at school and taking less home is also a goal. I realize this is something we all strive to do but I do believe this is the year I'm going to make it happen!

Another goal for me is to truly help individual students and make a real difference in their lives--more than just academically. Being in a non-traditional or alternative educational setting, this can also be an achievable goal. Working with students in very special circumstances requires a lot more of me but since I am in a smaller school setting and working more on a one-to-one level with students, I can focus on the individual needs of each person and less on the SOL needs of the state. To me, this is what teaching is all about!
Afreen Y. Gootee, middle school social studies and language arts teacher, Hanover County

Lifelong Learning
I am planning to start my doctoral degree in the fall of 2008. I need six more classes and a dissertation. I teach students that learning is a lifelong process, so, although I am 57 years old, I need to follow my own philosophy and continue to learn throughout my own life.
Jenny L. Pulley, high school English teacher, Chesterfield County

Swim Strong
While swimming in the sea of the numerous requirements of SOLs, VGLA, NCLB, benchmarks, etc., I want to provide instruction to my students that has true value to them, fosters their desire for learning, and considers them as individuals, not as data.
Bruce Newcomer, elementary ESL teacher, Spotsylvania County

Book 'Em
My New Year's Resolution is to build my classroom library to include many genres and levels of reading books. I came into a middle school classroom this year to teach reading comprehension and study skills. Many of the books in the book room are written at sixth grade level or higher. The majority of my eighth graders are reading at a second or third grade level. I want to do reading groups with these students and teach them at their level to build their confidence in reading, give them a variety of books, and see them progress significantly in their reading levels.
Marci Blosser-Neuman, middle school LD teacher, Chesterfield County

Back to School
My resolution is to return to school to receive a master's degree as a curriculum specialist.
Merlinda Gates, special education teacher, Virginia School at Hampton

Continue the Journey
My professional goal is to successfully complete my candidacy for National Board Certification. As one of the many who did not meet the benchmark on the first try, I'm beginning the retake process. I'm trying hard to listen more to my audible, confident voice. It tells me and others who console and encourage me that I won't quit, that I know I can do this. My inner voice, though, speaks of my doubts and disappointment. It's harder to share that inner voice with others, because it makes me feel so vulnerable.

My school is using the book Failure is NOT an Option as a point of discussion about our fledgling Professional Learning Community. It keeps popping up in my head as I ponder my journey to achieve certification. Is failing an option? Realistically, it is. Everyone does not "make it." Have I failed in this endeavor? Not yet, and hopefully not at all. But will I look on this journey as a failure if, at the end, I don't achieve certification? In some ways yes, in some ways no. But hopefully--and with more hard work ahead of me--I won't have to answer that question.
Jill M.Grissom, elementary science and social studies teacher, Manassas

Find Time
My professional goal for 2008 (and beyond) is, while shirking neither duty nor responsibility, to use the second most valuable commodity (behind only good health practices), time, in an effective and efficient way by eliminating the minutiae, inertia and plain BS that too often take up professional time that could be used in more meaningful ways.
John Hocker, fourth grade teacher, Pulaski County

Cutting Back-and Adding On
Because I've been a full-time local association president for several years, I'm hoping to make time to brush up on my curriculum area prior to re-entering a school setting in the fall of 2008. I also hope to be able to have more time with my family; time to spend obedience training our new dog (Remy, a cute little Papillon we recently adopted); time for personal interests such as music (singing), reading (just for fun and enjoyment!) and theatre-going (D.C. isn't that far away!); time to continue studying Spanish and perhaps another foreign language; overseas travel (specifically England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Paris); and time to devote to a charity or two.
Megan Link, president, Prince William Education Association

A New Chapter
After 32 years of teaching music, 2008 is the year of retirement for me. I remember the anticipation and excitement I felt 32 years ago when I embarked on a career in education. I resolve to spend the first half of 2008 organizing materials and making lists for my successor, to aid in a smooth transition for him or her. The last half of the year I want to again enjoy the anticipation and excitement of embarking on a new chapter in my life.
Polly Fravel, elementary music teacher, Harrisonburg


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