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Educators discuss occupation backstories

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Drama teacher Kyle Dodson (middle) instructs students through a theatre exercise.

With 3.7 million teachers employed in American public and private schools in 2018, teachers continue to play an important role during the developmental years of a child’s life. During these growing years, children are taught by educators who influence their ideas and beliefs.

Through their passion, the following five teachers create environments for learning that promote growth and impact students. Utilizing numerous styles of education, these teachers impart their enthusiasm into students, inspiring the next generation.

Susan Ainley, choral director at FCS for the past 18 years, frequently attends competitions with choirs. Leading the Cantiamo concert choir and women’s ensemble, Bellezza, in signing at Carnegie Hall last year, Ainley coaches her groups to become the best they can be.

English teacher and drama instructor for the past five years, Kyle Dodson utilizes his passion in his teaching. Dodson introduces his English classes to various works of literature while exposing drama students to real-world theatre programs through the form of open houses.

Cheer director for five years, Hope Villines works with her teams to perform at school sports events along with learning rigorous routines for their competitions. This year the high school and junior high cheer teams were recognized as Grand Champions at the FCC West Coast National Championships.

Danielle Foster | The Feather Online

Choral directer, Susan Ainley, (left) prepares the women’s ensemble for last years fall performance.

Vice principal and Bible teacher Scott Falk finds creative ways to teach his bible classes, including spontaneous walks around campus to observe and take pictures of nature. Previously teaching at FCS for 15 years, Falk returned this year from teaching for the past ten years at the Institute of Technology.

Rachel Rodriguez, Spanish instructor for the past four years, uses real-life applications to teach her students Spanish. By taking students to Mexican restaurants, such as Toledos, Rodriguez gives her students opportunities to use Spanish outside of the classroom.

What is an experience that inspired you to become a teacher?

Susan Ainley: I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I had inspirational teachers in elementary school who made going to school exciting and challenging. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Keith, played the piano beautifully, and would let us sing in class. When I heard her play the National Anthem, it made me want to go home and practice the piano. I think that memory sparked a love for music in the classroom that has stayed with me always.

Kyle Dodson: I had a really terrible English teacher my junior year, and I saw her as a very terrible teacher because she taught without passion and without joy. And as a student, that really rubbed off on me, and I really did not like that. And I felt like the subject of English could be taught in a better way. I felt like more than other subjects I have to show that I’m engaged, and I like reading and I like to talk about reading. Now looking back, the teacher wasn’t so much terrible as she couldn’t really cater to the needs that our class had.

Paige Provost | The Feather Online

Vice principal and Bible teacher, Scott Falk incorporates various methods in his teaching.

Scott Falk: When back when I was just a young kid in high school, I took an elective class where I walked over to the elementary school for one period of the day. I helped out in the class, kind of like a teacher’s aide. And I just found that I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed kids and I had a really positive school experience myself when I was younger. And I really enjoyed being with the kids and as I got older I saw more and more that teaching was what I was about.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time as a teacher?

Rachel Rodriguez: My favorite moments with my students is when they present their final projects and we have a fiesta to celebrate the hard work they put into the semester.

I’ve learned that being an effective teacher requires more than just knowing your subject area. If you don’t have the same background as your students it can be hard to connect with them and understand them. I learned that I care more about understanding why my students are who they are than them learning my subject area of Spanish.  

Hope Villines: Probably some of my favorite memories are of watching a student grow and graduate and then come back and they are able to talk about their time in high school.

The following podcast features Hope Villines sharing her experiences as a teacher and coach.

What is an experience that has changed your view of being a teacher?

Scott Falk: I think when I first started teaching, I assumed that because I was good to kids and because I was interested in the subject, that kids would just want to learn and would enjoy me as a teacher. And I found out very early that no matter how hard I tried and not matter how good I attempted to be, there would always be kids who didn’t like me or said things about, and even undermined things I did with other students. It’s kind of a cruel reality, but you realize not everybody loves the way you do things.

Kyle Dodson: When you come out of college, and you come out of classes, and you talk about teaching, the romantic idea of what it means to be a teacher and what it means to have your own classroom vanishes immediately and it only shifts with age. And it’s not a positive shift and it’s not a negative shift; it’s just different when you realize that all these ideas you have in your head are not always going to work out. And the teacher can only do so much, the students have to meet you halfway. No matter how much song and dance I do the students have to bring themselves to class.

PC Pierce | The Feather Online

Spanish teacher, Rachel Rodriguez uses local venues to show students the importance of Spanish in life.

What is a goal you strive towards while teaching?

Susan Ainley: My main goal as a music teacher is to get my students to a point where they discover the answers themselves. I have students at all levels of ability, but have to make them all sound the same. I have learned to be very creative in finding ways to teach music, but not spoon feed them the answers. I absolutely cherish the moments that choir students get so into the music that they have their own moment of emotional connection. Obviously, if they can get to that moment, the audience or judge will know it and feel it as well.

Hope Villines: It’s to motivate. My main goal is to not only teach kids about physical activity and that exercising is good for their brain and body and their soul, but I want to be able to motivate them to be better. Better people and to help put better human beings in the world.

What continues to fuel your passion for teaching?

Kyle Dodson: What keeps me teaching all these years, is the opportunity to help the students understand who they are through the writing and discovering who they are through these texts. Every year I get to be the teacher who introduces them to Shakespeare. I get to be the teacher that shows them why The Great Gatsby is considered one of the pinnacle ideas of American literature. And that is what keeps me coming back, that I get to provide those moments of discovery for the students.

Hope Villines: The fact that I get to do exactly what I love to do. Being at Fresno Christian gives me the opportunity to teach and to coach. It gives me the opportunity to be in a setting where I can pray with my students and tell them that they are loved and remind them that Jesus loves them.

Paige Provost | The Feather Online

Hope Villines also runs sister-to-sister, an on-campus program that connects junior high girls with high school girls.

What is one of your embarrassing moments during your time as a teacher?

Rachel Rodriguez: My embarrassing moments are when I mispronounce a word in English. One particular moment, I was upset with the class and I can’t remember what exactly for, but I told them I was frustrated with them and some started laughing. I didn’t understand why until they told me that I would say frustrated as ‘fustrated’.

Scott Falk: I think the funniest thing is when I say something unexpected or do something stupid, like when I trip or say someone’s name wrong. And students laugh at me because I did something that was funny, and it may be embarrassing but it still gets a good laugh.

For more articles, read Baseball begins practicing for spring season, or Preparing to face conflict with peaceful resolution.

Vijay Stephen can be reached via Twitter and email. 

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