Editor’s note: As part of our celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we are highlighting a few outstanding educators from classrooms across the state. We thank all teachers for their dedicated work with Iowa’s students this past year.

This Q&A session spotlight features Marshalltown Community School District teacher Amy Phillips. Phillips has taught for 31 years and currently teaches kindergarten at Franklin Elementary School.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was a business and typing teacher in high school, Mrs. West. She was a tenured teacher who even taught my parents! She was no-nonsense and expected great things from all kids. She was friendly and caring. She worked to get to know each student on a personal level.

Why are you passionate about teaching? What things do you love about working with students?

I am passionate about teaching because I truly feel I make a difference in the lives of our youngest learners. As a kindergarten teacher, I am the first school experience for so many of the students in our district. I want them to love learning and love coming to school. I can feel the kids' excitement and pride when they "make that connection" and understand what we are learning. Kindergarten is a huge year academically; they make so much growth. They are also learning more than academics. Social skills like how to handle conflict, build relationships and be a productive member of a team are such important skills we learn.

What do you think are the keys to a student’s success and how do you help foster that?

I think kids need to see the value in what they are being asked to learn. Learning has to be fun and interesting! I strive to do this in my classroom. Our content is very rigorous but I work to make it engaging by providing hands-on experiences and various groupings for kids to work together.

Over the years, how have you grown as an educator? What opportunities do you see in the next few years in education?

Throughout my career, I have continued to be a learner. I have formal trainings in so many curriculums and initiatives in our district. I have learned from other teachers through observations, coaching and mentoring. I hope to continue to work directly with teachers to help each other learn and to improve student achievement.

What advice would you give to a new teacher starting out in the field?

Do the best you can do everyday. Things will go wrong but you can regroup and try again tomorrow. Make strong connections with other teachers who can support you and help you learn. Have a positive attitude. Stand up for what you know is best for kids!

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