Most of us look back fondly on our elementary school years. It was a time of wonder and curiosity where we discovered incredible things about the world around us. Many of our teachers showed us how to think critically and be our genuine selves, which is why many people are drawn to a profession in education. Fifth grade teacher Taylor Wolden has truly loved being a formative part of children’s learning and development, and shares her experience during this last year as a teacher.
Taylor didn’t always have her heart set on a career in education. She initially began her undergraduate studies in law with the intention of becoming a lawyer. However, during her senior year of college, Taylor was working for an attorney’s office in Seattle and realized that the work was very draining for her. The work she really loved was actually the time she spent nannying. “I worked with two kids in Bellevue for my entire college career and I realized this was my favorite of the day,” Taylor says. “I loved sharing things with them and thought sharing information with the next generation would be so much more rewarding.”
After graduating from University of Washington with her bachelor’s degree she went on to pursue her master’s degree at Northwest University. She chose this program because of how quick and intensive it is. After a lot of hard work, Taylor finished the program and was ready to begin her career as a teacher. She started out as a fifth-grade teacher, but was unfortunately cut after her first year due to a drop in attendance. She spent a few years working as a second/third grade split teacher in Kent, but wanted to work closer to home after having kids of her own. Taylor landed another fifth-grade teaching job at Evergreen Forest Elementary five years ago and has been there ever since.
Taylor’s favorite part of the job has been the relationships she gets to build with her students. “I love fifth grade because they are funny, witty and sassy,” she says. “I get to go in and joke with these kids every day and ask about their passions. They definitely keep me young.”
There are days in any profession where a person may question why they are there, and on those days, Taylor thinks about the incredible role she gets to play in their lives. “I have a real investment in their lives,” Taylor says. “It keeps me centered as a person and makes me more human to have those connections.”
Unfortunately, this last year of distance learning has meant less connection than usual. For teachers, this distance was incredibly challenging because there is so much more they are able to learn and take in about their students when they are in person. In March, fifth grade was welcomed back to school through a hybrid learning program, and the difference is like night and day. “I thought distance learning was working, but then once I brought them into the classroom and realized how much wasn’t sticking,” Taylor shares. “The instant help and attention I can give them in person is so much better.”
The best part about coming back has been the joy from the kids. “They are so excited to be back at school,” Taylor says. “They don’t care what they have to do because they love the social connection.” Online it was challenging or almost impossible for students to really connect with one another, but now that they are back in school two days a week, friendships are quickly forming. Taylor feels like she can bond better with her students in person too, which makes a big difference.
There are still days of the week that students are learning remotely, which has been interesting to manage as a teacher. “Before I used to plan day by day, but this switch has required me to be a weekly planner,” Taylor says. “I have to plan lessons for in class and at home at the same time for the whole week so it has definitely been a lot of prep work.” Despite the new challenges, Taylor is thrilled to have her students back in class, even if it is only half the week.
As a parent herself, Taylor knows how challenging this year has been with managing remote work for parents and children alike. “I quickly realized that having my kids home and teaching at the same time was incredibly hard,” she recalls. “There was no way I would be able to monitor my child in online kindergarten, care for my 2 year old, and teach at the same time.” Luckily, Taylor has family close by that took turns watching the children when she was teaching. “I had a whole support team,” she says.
For many families, this may or may not have been the reality, and Taylor is hugely empathetic toward families supporting a child in distance learning. “As a parent, I have a lot more grace for my families that were in that scenario,” Taylor says. “In the teacher mind frame, you think parents can just make sure kids are doing the work, but as a parent, there are a lot of variables going on that can affect that.” It has been a huge relief to be able to have her kids back in school for part of the week, and she is so grateful for the resiliency of her families as they supported their children throughout this virtual school year.
For Taylor, being a teacher has been hugely rewarding and we are lucky to have such passionate teachers like her in our community. If you know a teacher, be sure to thank them for their wonderful service to our youth!