First-year teacher Brianna Winiesdorffer shares with us how she's adjusted to her first few weeks of teaching in this ongoing series, "On the Journey."Oct 27, 2020
We are documenting Brianna Winiesdorffer’s journey as a 2020 Northern Arizona University graduate planning on a lifelong career in education. Learn more about this project and Winiesdorffer here.
Before the school year began, Brianna Winiesdorffer had predicted that brushing up on the math skills she would need as a math resource teacher would be her greatest challenge.
“But now living it, the content isn’t nearly as bad as I thought,” she says. What has been more difficult is learning to be a case manager for students with individualized education plans (IEPs). While earning her education degree, Winiesdorffer learned in general about IEPs but did not comprehend then the scope and detailed precision of each individual plan.
As a math resource teacher, “Ms. Winnie” is involved in several IEP organizational meetings as a teacher representative and has 19 students she is responsible for as their case manager. In that role, she leads the IEP meetings, writes up the actual IEP including details from the meetings and what accommodations and supports each student requires, and ensures through the year that the IEP is being followed.
Winiesdorffer began teaching her students at Coconino High School on Monday, August 17, and has been sprinting through the weeks ever since. Her students have been learning from home, while she teaches and works from her classroom at the high school.
There’s a lot to handle as a first year teacher, made even more challenging because of obstacles from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time Winesdorffer is planning out class time, organizing IEP meetings, and assisting students virtually, she’s also adjusting to the differences between teaching as a student and as a full-time professional.
She feels supported by other staff at the school but recognizes how different it is from the kind of continual feedback she received as an undergraduate.
“What I’ve noticed is you go from being in college and getting all of this support from all of your teachers, and doing practicum, and doing student teaching, and being praised verbally on how well you’re doing,” she explains. “And then you go your first year of teaching and you don’t have someone sitting on your shoulder giving you constant praise.”
Similarly, she also sees how professors break down work for college students, giving due dates for assignments and often deadlines for when pieces of larger projects should be done along the way. As a teacher, Winiesdorffer is responsible to prioritize when and how to complete tasks.
She was an incredibly involved and busy college student. In her last two school years, she was generally working for Flagstaff Families and Communities Teaming for Students (“FACTS” for short) before and after each school day, student teaching during the school day, and then organizing for or leading NAU Ed Rising events in her evenings, fitting in any other schoolwork or duties where she could. She developed strong senses of organization and time management then, so is adjusting well to overseeing her own schedules and tasks as a full time teacher. She worries about new teachers who didn’t develop those disciplines in college.
While what this semester has been so far is not the vision she had as a student of her first year of teaching, she recognizes that working with all this technology has allowed her to be helpful to other teachers. If it were a more normal year, she says, she would likely just be continually asking other teachers questions about things. But because she’s so comfortable navigating online, she’s able to assist and answer questions of other teachers. “It can be an exchange,” she says.
There have been hard days and there have been better days, and Winiesdorffer is working to remember that there is a balance: “I have to take it day by day.”