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Teaching Philosophy

Danielle Rishell

B.S. Secondary English Education, 2016

Family and Consumer Sciences certified, 2016

M.A. Composition and Literature, 2020

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When I was a senior in high school trying to decide what to do with my future, I couldn’t help but look around at my classmates and note the many students who were not prepared to graduate, get a job, and begin independently building a life of their own. I decided to become an English educator because I saw the English classroom as a place where I could equip older students just like my peers for a culturally diverse, increasingly digital, and at times very challenging world.


Applicable Lifetime Skills

“I just wanted to say thank you for having us make resumes in class this year. I have been 

applying for jobs and I have used it for every single application! If it hadn't been for learning 

about it during class time, I don't think I would know how to make a proper resume. Thank 

you for teaching us life skills in English class!” 

-email from a student after graduation


As a teacher at a rural public school where many of my students graduate and go right into the workforce, I know that it is my responsibility to provide activities that will stop the question, “When will we ever use this in our lives?” I use learning intentions and success criteria, defined by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, to be very clear from the beginning of the lesson what specific skills we are working on and what achievement will look like. Well-articulated goals prevent student frustration and focus my teaching on more defined and therefore more realizable skills.

While still meeting the standards required by my district and the state, I work within this structure to provide opportunities for real-world experiences, like employment and workplace writing, financial organization, positive relationships, writing emails, addressing letters, public speaking, critical thinking, and working in differentiated groups. My seniors are assigned a “Real World How-To” presentation, where they get to demonstrate to the class how to do laundry, change a tire, cook meat without getting sick, register to vote, figure out taxes and the related forms, and many other tasks that they may be faced with after graduation. What they learn in my classroom as seniors extends beyond college readiness and prepares them for a more successful and productive everyday experience.


Knowledge of the World at Large

“Your class has taught me so much about life in general, stuff we've never learned.” 

-email from a student during the COVID-19 crisis

 

In my classroom, I act as a facilitator for students to become exposed to other cultures, perspectives, and processes that do not come naturally to them because of the nature of our small and rural school. It is my responsibility in the English classroom to introduce them to new perspectives on race, class, gender, human rights, environmentalism, and any other diverse viewpoints that they don’t hear at home or in the echo chamber that is their social media experience. If I don’t introduce them to the “other” in a way that is accessible and logical, and demonstrate how to accept and react to those differences respectfully and productively, there is a very good chance that they won’t get this type of exposure in any other part of their lives.

Apart from introducing varying opinions and perceptions, it is also important for students to practice working with others regardless of their personal preferences. For example, if they are always allowed to work alone, they won’t develop the skills necessary in working with others, like problem-solving, critical listening, and disagreeing respectfully. If they are used to choosing their partner, they will struggle with handling maturely the adversity that comes with collaborating with people they may not like or agree with. Differentiating the group work in my classroom allows students to practice and perfect their interpersonal skills.

When thinking about knowledge that students must have to succeed in the world at large, we can’t deny the extremely technological direction in which society is moving. While computers and electronics are not the all-encompassing answer for all problems and classroom instruction, providing opportunities for students to develop intermediate to advanced digital skills cannot be ignored in this increasingly technological society.


Classroom Environment

“You have made a big impact on my life. Someday when I am a teacher I hope that I will be 

as positive and as fun as you are. I don’t think I have ever seen you without a smile on your 

face and it is so inspirational.” 

-email from a student beginning her 

post-secondary education to become a teacher


If a student does not feel supported, they cannot possibly be expected to learn to the best of their ability. I strive to create a classroom that is a safe space for learning. My strategies for instruction provide students with the freedom to fail and try again, the positivity and encouragement to gain confidence in themselves and value their work, and the high expectations that push them to become better in all aspects of their lives. High expectations correlate with high student achievement, and mediocre is just not good enough in my classroom. That being said, I don’t force each student to a certain standard of achievement but focus on personalized growth as the main method of improvement. This includes challenging naturally high-achieving students who may have become stagnant to consider the ways in which they can grow and encouraging each student to reflect on their previous work to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for the future.


Overall, I believe that my classroom is a place of endless opportunities for students to not only learn English skills but grow as responsible and productive members of an ever-changing, diverse society.

 
Student Council Co-Advisor
Level 1 Google Certified Educator
PIIC Instructional Coach
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