We all remember a teacher who inspired us. An individual who has always believed in us, supported us through challenges, sparked our passion for a topic, or inspired us to keep going when we were discouraged. For me, I was fortunate enough to have many teachers who shaped my academic career and passion for education. In addition to being teachers, these individuals served as mentors, nurses, counselors, parents, friends, and ultimately, role models.
Teacher Feature, a new blog series by The School Planner Company, will highlight educators from all over the country. These teachers and education entrepreneurs make an impact in and outside of the classroom sharing valuable knowledge with students and fellow teachers through influential sites and blogs. We are excited to launch the Teacher Feature blog series and bring awareness to how much teachers do each day, the relationships they foster with their students, and ultimately, how we as a community can best support them. Look forward to new teacher features regularly!
If you know an amazing educator who you think we should feature, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Claudine James, I Am That English Teacher
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
My first grade teacher assigned me a reading group like hers because I already knew how to read. This and inspiring aunts who were educators helped me to see the rewards of teaching. After obtaining associate degree in accounting, my husband and I opened a daycare. My students loved learning and excelled on their kindergarten entrance tests. After 15 years, I divorced and returned to college to become a public school teacher. As a single mother of three, I faced enormous challenges returning to school at 37. I could not work the final semester of teacher’s college – internship. I provided for my family by using credit cards.
Tell us one of your most memorable moments of your teaching career?
There’s one incident that I will always remember and reflect on as one of my proudest moments as an educator. A student, K, a part of an exhibit her class hosted. She was very, very shy, but her assignment was to represent the political figure she had read about during our book study. She was so afraid of presenting as the exhibit was a week-long exhibit hosted at the local community college. On the first day, you could see her obvious nervousness as it was her first time presenting, but every presentation gave her more confidence. When her father saw her present, he was in tears. He returned every day, and each time he was blown away by the ease and confidence she had gained. He and his wife pulled me aside the last day and thanked me for helping her excel. He said he honestly was worried about her because of how shy she was, but the exhibit had been a game changer for her, and they could not thank me enough for helping K become a confident speaker. He even said, “I am no longer worried about my daughter. Thank you.” After that, K accompanied me on several presentations that weren’t even required school functions. With each occasion, I saw her grow and grow and my respect for her grew as well. I just submitted a letter of recommendation for her as a senior intern. She has definitely made me proud.
What is one fun way you have motivated your students?
On December 1, 2020, with urging by students, I started posting grammar lessons on TikTok in order to reach virtual students who weren’t watching my videos on YouTube. Just a few months later, I had over 3.1 million TikTok followers from 82 different countries. ESL learners have learned basic grammar skills needed for language acquisition, others have received academic refreshers, and many use it to study for tests such as the ACT.
My videos and stories motivate and inspire current/future teachers. I have never had as much collaboration with other educators as I have since joining TikTok. I feel valued; I feel respected; I feel like what I do matters; it matters to so many people. My classroom now expands around the world, plus I’m helping to remind other educators how much they are needed in this profession.
Research has shown lack of recognition is one reason why most people of color leave the teaching profession, but I’ve held on and not let that take me away from what I was created to do; my mission in life is to educate. Past/current students are educated through my innovative and creative teaching methods and future students can’t wait to be one of my students. I’m here to stay! TikTok, the virtual platform with 689 million monthly subscribers, selected to honor me as a standout educational creator during May 2021 Teacher Appreciation Month. I proved that I am an amazing teacher. And now that I have this platform I am going to remind everyone, “Education is the most powerful weapon used to change the world.” I proved just that to myself.
At the end of each year, students complete a teacher survey; I ask: “What have you most liked about being a student in my class?” Responses include: “You pushed me.” “You made me see how smart I am.” “Thanks, you made me mad at first, but I have never had a teacher who thought so much of me.” “How did you know I could read so many books? I didn’t know I could; you believed in me.”
These are wonderful compliments, and I am glad my students “see” my mission. However, I teach because I want to influence all of my students in such a way that I illuminate their abilities, inspire them to greatness, and impress upon each of them, that if no one else does, I care. Simply stated,I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students.
What inspires you as a teacher and education influencer?
After becoming an influencer on TikTok, my impact in improving the teaching profession skyrocketed. I have become a mentor and inspiration to thousands of teachers who reach out to me for guidance and help. Many teachers say they duplicate my lessons or teaching methods or just show my lessons to their students. This is why a teacher planner should also include an area for collaboration of inspiring ideas and contacts of mentors.
What do you hope your students take away from your classroom?
Student RD stated: “It feels like a century ago that we started school. At the same time it feels like yesterday was the first day of school. Since being in this class, I have learned many things about grammar, punctuation. Ms. James teaches us some of the things we should have learned in elementary school. None of the teachers in my past school years have taught the things Ms. James has taught us. When I was quarantined, Ms. James was the only teacher who actually still taught the virtual kids the same stuff as the in person class. Most of the teachers either just do not post any work or they post work just to keep you busy. I will definitely think back to this class and it will definitely help me with my future. If the school was to shut down again due to Covid-19, I know this class will be just about the same. We will still learn something new every day in this class”. Her words are echoed by other students in my classes and online. Teaching matters.
What is the value of students writing by hand versus digital only?
One of the things I am often complimented on as an educator is my penmanship. I am one of the few that encourages students to write because this actually helps them to improve their penmanship. Likewise, there are very few opportunities in today’s tech-driven classrooms for students to utilize the use of good penmanship. Using planners provides students the opportunity to not only utilize their penmanship, but it helps them with their organizational skills which is part of our English Language Arts standards. I’ve seen a direct correlation between students who use planners and those who don’t – those that use planners usually have better grades.