First-year teacher Brianna Winiesdorffer shares about her experiences leading up to winter break.Jan 06, 2021
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.
First-year teacher Brianna Winiesdorffer has officially made it through her first semester of teaching. While the final two days of the semester occur after winter break for Flagstaff Unified School District, the two-week break provided a much needed re-set for Winiesdorffer.
As the semester neared winter break, she felt like she was in a good place.
“I feel like it ended pretty well. I definitely felt a lot more on top of things at the end of this quarter than at the end of last quarter.”
In November, Winiesdorffer met with her principal to review her first in-class observation.
“Generally, I was pretty happy about the feedback in terms of student engagement and management. I scored really well in that, so that was nice,” she says. She was also proud of how much she had connected with her fellow teachers and staff, meeting regularly with her math team, her colleagues in special education, her co-teacher, and multiple mentors. “I appreciated the feedback; any feedback right now is better than nothing.”
Along with teaching her three classes during the final weeks of school in December, Winiesdorffer was busy writing progress reports for the students with individualized education plans on her caseload, seeing how far each had advanced on their multiple goals for the semester. Looking through students’ grades and seeing what might be done to help those not passing classes brought her to an emotional realization: despite the support she offers, some of her students will not fulfill certain assignments or requirements and may fail some classes.
“That’s not a fun realization to come to,” she says. “That was the hardest part.”
As she looks at her computer screen, scanning her students’ grades, she nods her head, grieving some of the scores she sees.
It’s left her with “so many ‘what ifs’,” she says. “What if they had better internet? What if they had been able to be in school in-person?”
She also feels a mix of emotions about the end of classes themselves. The final day of her Algebra I and Algebra II classes will likely be the last time she sees many of those students. She smiles, thinking of those students, those she’ll remember as the first she taught as a full-time teacher.
Ending those classes, though, also brings excitement. She’s teaching Algebra I again this second semester — two units, in fact. Having taught it this past semester, she’s looking forward to feeling more comfortable about the class and having the ability to try some new things, assess what worked and what was less successful in the first semester.
“I feel like I know more of how to plan,” she says. “I feel like I don’t need to re-teach myself as many of the things. I feel like I know what examples worked better than others.”
The final day before winter break, Winiesdorffer had an awards ceremony for her Algebra I students, inspired by an idea from her mentor through the Arizona K12 Center. Every student received an award for something special to them, like “best dad jokes,” “most emojis used in class,” and “being the biggest imposter in the game Among Us.” It was a great way to close that part of the year, Winiesdorffer says. More cameras were on than usual, including one student who had never turned her camera on during class until that day.
It was a fun Friday to transition to winter break. Winiesdorffer was most looking forward to enjoying sleeping in and a relaxed daily schedule before returning to finish out her first school year.