Lee County Schools Teacher of Week — Elizabeth Wiggs

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

Name: Elizabeth Wiggs

School: Lee Early College High School

Grades/subjects you teach: Honors English III and Honors English IV

E-mail address: ewiggs.lec@lee.k12.nc.us

Date, place of birth: 4-20-86, Columbia, Tenn.

Education (high school & college attended, degrees): Davie County High School, 2004; Appalachian State University: Bachelor of Science in secondary English education, 2008; North Carolina State University: Master of Arts in English, concentration in British literature, 2010

Brief work history: Taught English 101 at N.C. State, taught English at Lee Early College for the past three years

Hobbies/interests outside teaching: Reading, museum-hopping, seeing Shakespeare plays, hanging out with friends and family

Family: Husband, Trey Wiggs, dog, Steve

ON TEACHING

What led you to a career as a teacher?

After my very first day of school in kindergarten, I loved school so much that I came home and told my mom I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I never wavered!

Who were your favorite teachers as you went through school, and what did you learn from them?

My favorite teacher was an English professor at Appalachian State, Dr. Thomas McGowan. He brought an incredible amount of energy to the classroom, which made it virtually impossible for students not to enjoy learning.

Has becoming a teacher been all you expected it would be?

Yes, and more so. When I was in high school, English classes were almost always solely focused on reading and discussing old literature, with very little talk about new books or work on writing. My job provides me with so much more flexibility, and that is fantastic. While we still read the classics, we also get to read books like "Harry Potter" and spend tons of time working on writing; I could never have predicted that, and I absolutely love it.

How has teaching changed since you were a student?

For me, learning was very passive. As students, we were expected to absorb information, and a good student was one who could pass a multiple-choice test. Now, education is focused on student engagement and making material relevant. Personally, I believe this is an enormous improvement, as our students are graduating with skills that they desperately need in order to make significant contributions in their college and work environments.

What "makes your day" as a teacher?

Any day that we spend working on writing is an amazing day in my book. Sitting down with students to conference on their writing is a lot of fun and quite productive. When my students look at their writing from August and compare it to their writing in March, they make these horrified faces that crack me up. More importantly, I see them have that “lightbulb moment” where they realize that being a good writer isn't just a natural talent; it's something they have to cultivate.

What's working in schools today?

Increased technology in the classroom. I am so grateful to work in a 1:1 district, because schools like ours are actually mimicking the real world. If we’re trying to get students to be college- and career-ready, we need to have classrooms that reflect that environment; I think our district does an excellent job of doing that.

What's not working?

Teacher pay — but that’s not a surprise to anyone. We know what it's going to be when we enter the profession, and we know that right now, there doesn’t seem to be a good solution to the problem.

What's your favorite memory of your first year as a teacher?

I was very nervous the first time my principal (Bob Biehl) came in to observe me, and I have a bad habit of turning unnaturally red when I get nervous. I kept on teaching, and the kids were great, but as soon as he left, they burst out laughing at how beet red I had been. Since then it’s become kind of a long-standing joke.

How would your "teacher" persona handle you as a student?

Until I got to college, I was bad about revising and editing my work. As a teacher, I see many similar situations, so I always tell them my own personal story about revising; I tell them that revision is a choice, but that they will always be rewarded with better grades and a sense of greater accomplishment. Ultimately, it's up to them, just like it was up to me.

Best piece of advice for other teachers?

Get on Twitter! I have found the best network of passionate educators with fantastic ideas on there. If you’re interested in trying something new or need help from an expert, Twitter is a great resource.

For students?

Revise, revise, revise! Look over everything you turn in before you hit the submit button.

For parents?

Call, email or drop by. Teachers are always happy to talk with parents and sincerely appreciate the contact!

If you were superintendent for a day, you'd:

Spend a day in classrooms. Dr. Moss has been in my classroom a few times, and it always makes me feel like the Lee County Schools administration has my (and the kids’) best interests at heart since they take the time to observe what's going on.

What about your job would surprise your non-teaching friends the most?

I work a lot, but I actually like it. The work is always engaging and challenging. I would prefer doing that to watching TV!

If you could somehow magically instill one truth into the heads of your students, what would it be?

The only way to be truly prepared for everything life has to offer (or throw at) you, is to always do your best. Make the best grades you can, keep good acquaintances and take care of yourself. If you know you have always done your best, then you will never disappoint yourself.

When you think about today's kids, you:

I get excited! Today's students are in an incredibly unique and novel position. Instead of learning facts, our students are learning skills, and I think that, in the long run, will make them a fantastic generation.

If one of your students was asked for a one-word description of you by a student who hadn't had you in class, what would that one word be?

I asked a few students this question, and they said they would describe me as enthusiastic!

Favorite movie about school or teaching:

"Chalk" — it's a mockumentary about the profession. There are so many intense and uplifting movies about teaching, but sometimes we just need to laugh about the funny aspects. "Chalk" definitely provides that perspective.

How would you summarize your teaching philosophy?

I subscribe to the Pygmalion effect, which is essentially that people tend to perform according to the expectations placed upon them. I always believe my students are capable of incredible work, and, since I believe in them, they almost always live up to the challenge.

What five things must every teacher know?

1. There is always a better way to do what you're doing; teachers should never stop learning.

2. Everybody has bad lesson plans; just learn from your mistakes and you'll be fine.

3. Your content is not automatically relevant to your students; it's your job to make it relevant.

4. Being a kid is hard; don't forget how you used to feel.

5. How to ask for help: from teachers, administrators, parents and anyone else who could offer suggestions

What's special about your classroom?

We tell a lot of true stories in my classroom. A story provides a way not only to connect to your students personally, but to help them remember important information.

What's special about your school?

LEC is special because of the way the staff works together. When we come together in one room, it is blatantly obvious that we all have the same goals in mind for our students, even if we each have different approaches to reaching them.

Most unusual question you've ever gotten from a student?

I received a bunch of student essays on a Friday, graded them and passed them back out on Monday. I had a student look at me and say, “Do you have any friends?!” (And, for the record, yes I do — but most of them are teachers too!)