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.

Today’s Q&A session spotlight features Norwalk Community School District teacher Katie Weldon. Weldon has taught for 22 years and currently teaches sixth grade mathematics at Norwalk Middle School.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

I have three teachers who were very influential to me. Mrs. Behrens, my kindergarten teacher, was so great in creating a relationship with me and an excitement about school before I even started. She wrote me a letter welcoming me to school before it started that year.

Mrs. Gutwein, a middle school teacher, taught me those executive skills needed to manage school, athletics and friends. She was reliable and I could count on her to be there when needed. 

Mrs. Borich, a high school math teacher and a first year teacher mentor, helped me for a number of years both in high school and then my first years of teaching. She helped mold me into the educator I am today.

I have found that I take different aspects from all of these instructors and apply them to my classroom today!

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

It is a pleasure to work with students and see them develop an understanding for standards that are being discussed. I appreciate all the efforts that students put forth and I love working with them to help them get there!  Developing a relationship with students helps create an atmosphere and culture of learning and thinking. Students will surprise you every time with their effort and focus!  I also love to work with middle schoolers! They are so fun and happy to try any new strategy! It is so encouraging to see them think and learn!

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

Student success is measured in so many ways by so many different tests!  At the middle school level, I like to look beyond those test scores and into the daily focus and successes of students. Students' success is fostered through the support net that adults create around them. It is a team working together to bring out the best in that student. The win is a student who feels connected, valued and productive. This is achieved through positive relationships, connections and teachable moments. It is important to teach the whole child and to help fill the individual gaps in each student.

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

As an educator I have grown immensely in recent years. I have been working on various teams at the district and building levels. I have tried to invest myself in not only educational endeavors, but also in the planning and workings of the school. I currently hold a teacher leadership role in our building and have found that the more opportunities that come my way, the more I enjoy learning about them. I think it is important to keep moving forward and learning something new.  In the years to come, it is incumbent upon educators to work to recruit others to our profession and to mentor them. Education has endless opportunities to continue to create classrooms of the future where students can be innovative and encouraged to push themselves farther than they thought they could. I look forward to embracing the changes and challenges ahead!

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

As a new educator, lean on those around you and learn from them. Never be afraid to ask a question or be vulnerable and invite a mentor or coach in to offer suggestions and support. Teaching is a learning-on-the job position! Always be flexible and ready to make adjustments as necessary. My last piece of advice is to create boundaries for your work and learning. You can only be your best when you take care of you!