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Elementary education undergraduate and Master of Science in Education alumna Danielle Johnson isn’t your ordinary second-grade teacher. For part of the day, she leads students from both first- and second-grade in a mixed-classroom setting. The benefit? Not only is she an adaptive and professional educator, but she’s also making sure students get both the extra attention they need and the advanced challenges for those who are excelling in their grade level.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t have this kind of classroom?

I am a second-grade classroom teacher in Naples, Maine. I teach all the core subjects, as well as strategies and skills to help with social skills. This year, my class of second-graders is involved in “Learning Lane,” a community of teachers, staff members and students who are working together to further the successes of our students. We group our students by ability and teach students the skills and strategies they truly need.

Your classroom is a mixed-grade room at times. What’s that like?

Multiple times throughout the day, my students go to a specific spot in our learning community, which allows them to be taught the skills they need. Most of my students stay in my room, which is considered a 1-2 room, or go into the room next door, which is considered the 2-3 or enrichment room. I need to make sure that I set routines for my students who are leaving at these times, as well as for the students coming into my room.

How is this structure different than the “regular” teaching experience?

The biggest challenge is the amount of movement throughout the day. I need to make sure that I am set in the routine of what we are doing so that I am always aware of my students and where they need to be. Another challenge would be the constant communication with each student’s classroom teacher so we can solve any problems or concerns.

What brought you to teaching? And, now that you’re there, is it more than just “teaching”?

I pursued teaching because of my passion to help students become lifelong learners. I love seeing my students excel in ways that they may not be able to excel by themselves. The pride they begin to show and the confidence they exude as the year goes on is what makes it worthwhile. Being a teacher is not just about teaching. I am also a nurturing, caring adult, a counselor, and am constantly doing triage to any sicknesses the students may feel. While teaching, I need to make sure that I am thinking about the needs of all of my students.

From your time as a student at Saint Joseph’s, what sticks with you to this day?

The elementary education faculty did a great job at having me reflect on my success and what I can constantly be working on. I use this every day, which ultimately helps me become a better teacher day after day. Another thing that I utilize everyday is how to be a professional. The elementary education faculty held us to high standards and expected that we act and look professionally. The faculty provided me with the foundation I needed to be an educator and to constantly learn and advance. They also prepped me for the interview process, holding mock interviews my junior and senior years. I found the First Year Alumni Teacher's Panel to be very helpful because I was able to hear stories of alumni who went through the program and what successes or failures they may be experiencing in the field. I was able to ask questions that I may not necessarily have been able to ask in an interview or when I first began teaching.

Knowing what you know now, what tip would you give to current elementary education students?

Be ready for anything. The education field is constantly changing. Saint Joseph's College does a great job at preparing you for the field, preparing you to be ready to accept and adapt to changes as they are passed along to the classroom.