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Ten Minutes with…Tracey Mercier

K-5 special education and gifted teacher
Local Assn.: Bristol Virginia Education Association     
Years worked in education: 20

What is a typical school day like for you?
Gosh…no two days are alike but I’ll give it a shot. Our work day technically begins at 8 a.m., but I like to arrive by 7-7:10. It is amazing what I can get accomplished that early!

Then I start by rotating between third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, helping my students during whole group reading instruction. Around 9:15, students come to my resource classroom for small group instruction. I have seven fifth-graders, three fourth-graders, and three-third graders at various independent reading levels. While working in small group with one grade level, the others are participating in work stations. I try to spend…no, invest, at least 20 minutes of small group instruction with each grade level. After that comes math, which I handle the same way since I have three grade levels at the same time. Then it’s time for reading intervention strategies.

After lunch, it’s grammar time with my fourth- and fifth-graders, then off to second grade to assist students with math. Afterwards there’s some planning time and, before I know it, car rider duty awaits.

What do you like about your job?
I love being a positive motivator for my students. I know that for many of my students, academic failure and frustration have been the norm. When they come to me, I want them to experience success and celebrate it. Even the smallest accomplishments are celebrated. We laugh so much that other students ask when they can come to my class.

What is hard about your job?
The most difficult part of my job is taking home the horrible lives that some of my students endure. Their circumstances make me work even harder at making the time they spend with me the happiest and safest time they have.

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?
There are so many stories. Here are a few:

A number of years ago I had a student who wouldn’t communicate verbally. Most of his teachers had pushed him to talk; I didn’t. Within four weeks he started talking to me and two weeks later he started talking to his classmates. He didn’t say a lot, but when he did speak, everyone listened.
Once, during a unit on The Star Spangled Banner, I had students role-play the characters of Francis Scott Key, Dr. William Beanes and John Skinner during the attack on Fort McHenry. They pretended my classroom couch was the ship they were on as they watched the bombardment. They spoke of how they didn’t think there was any way we could win. But when the narrator announced it was dawn, they “saw” the American flag flying. My student playing Mr. Key really got into his role. He grabbed the other students and shouted, “Glory Hallelujah!” Without any prompting, the entire class erupted into applause. It was an awesome moment!

One year, a student of mine with a speech impediment earned a speaking part in our PTA Christmas program. There was only one problem—her grandmother worked evenings, so she wasn’t able to bring her to the school. So I picked her up and she said her part beautifully. The play ended earlier than we’d planned so I took her to the local mall so she could see where Santa would be. When we pulled into the parking lot, she looked around and said, “I’ve never been here before.” I told her that she couldn’t say that anymore. When we got inside, the look of wonder on her face as she gazed upon all the decorations was priceless.

How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
Being an Association member helps me on a daily basis. VEA has helped me become more knowledgeable regarding issues facing public education, which affords me the opportunity to share that knowledge and help empower others. I feel a great amount of pride when I’m able to share VEA’s legislative victories. It also warms my heart when our administration seeks VEA’s position on issues because they know that nothing gets by our top-notch staff. Most importantly, I can teach every day knowing I am not alone. I have the power, resources and support of my local, state and national associations behind me.

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