GETTING TO KNOW – There are few places Jennifer Porter would rather be than her classroom at McNulty Academy of International Studies and Literacy.
“Being here in the classroom is where I want to be,” Porter said. “I feel lucky that I am able to have this be what I get to do every day. Twenty-five years in, I would not change it.”
The Amsterdam native has long known she wanted to be a teacher and after graduating from Amsterdam High School she went on to study at SUNY Oswego and the University at Albany. She started her teaching career at Clara S. Bacon Elementary, which she had attended growing up.
Over the years, she also taught at William B. Tecler Elementary before becoming a second-grade teacher at McNulty. She and her family, including her husband Mike and their children Isabella and Ben, live in Amsterdam.
We recently caught up with Porter about how she creates a family atmosphere in the classroom and the importance of professional development.
Q: What made you want to be a teacher?
A: I just always knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was 5. My kindergarten teacher would read aloud to us. I just fell in love with it. Then I had this one particular teacher, Trish Skeels, she was my fifth-grade teacher and I was blown away. She was amazing.
Q: What made you want to teach first and second grade?
A: I have the joy of teaching reading. It’s just joyful when they learn to read and it just opens up a whole new world.
When I went to SUNY Albany, I did get certified as a reading teacher in addition to classroom teaching, and I just love the phonics part of it. I love breaking down the letters and the sounds and teaching them to get their mouth ready for a particular sound.
Q: What have been some of the challenges of teaching over the years?
A: I don’t really look at this as a negative thing but making sure that I’m keeping up with whatever’s new, whatever is proven, whatever’s research-based. I always want to keep [learning].
I’m continuing to be involved in our leadership team here, with our PBIS, which is the positive behaviors program that we have here. I’m really involved with our union here at school, I’m the building president. I like to stay busy and be a part of the community.
So it’s not a negative, but just making sure I’m continuing to learn, continuing to stay fresh.
Q: What have been some of the most rewarding parts of teaching?
A: I would also say that continuing to learn is rewarding because you’re just seeing a new way of learning sometimes and knowing that I’m giving my best to [my students] because they deserve it.
[Another] positive is kids coming back and just saying that they loved when we did this particular thing in the classroom. I know that I’m making a difference because they’re happy, they’re smiling, they’re learning. I tell them in school, as a teacher, I’m here to love you, I’m here to stretch your brain. I’m here to protect you.
I really do work hard to include them in creating a classroom family each school year. So looking back at it, as they get older, they still feel that love and I want them to know that it doesn’t matter if they’re 25 or 30. They can still look back at our time together and know that they’ll always have a special spot in my heart.
Q: How do you foster that sense of family in the classroom?
A: By getting to know every single one of them, getting to know their family. We start each day with a morning meeting. [It’s] powerful because morning meeting holds us all together before the day starts. We get to have the opportunity to smile, have a fun way to say good morning. Then we do an activity, usually some kind of challenge question or a review question just to include everybody. We have fun, we set the tone for the day. At the end of the day, [we] also bring everybody back to the carpet.
[When] we have a struggle in the classroom … we talk about it, we figure it out. Sometimes we have meetings and then carry that through to their families because their families are trusting me to take care of them and love them and be kind to them.
I want to make sure that what’s important to [my students] is important to me. And they need to feel that. Everyone is important. Everyone has a role.
Q: What do you like to do outside the classroom?
A: Family is first so I always like to do whatever I can to support the family. But I love flowers and plants. I like to take care of our flower garden. I love going on vacations, trying new things.
“Getting To Know …” is a weekly feature spotlighting people making a difference in the lives of others. If there’s someone you think we should feature, let us know by emailing us at [email protected]
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