Hattie Graves

Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence

City/School System
Waterloo Community School District

Subjects and Grade Level

What’s the thing you like most about teaching?
One of the greatest rewards that comes with teaching is the satisfaction that comes from watching your students learn a new lesson, seeing a light bulb go off in the student’s head as they suddenly grasp the meaning. When students can bring tears to your eyes — I am talking about tears of joy — and when they can look at you with a smile on their face and make the statement, “I did that.” It makes me very proud of my own accomplishments and how this can influence their lives for a lifetime. This is what I LOVE about teaching.

What’s the thing you find most challenging about teaching?
What I find most challenging is the lack of time, staying on top of everything, and the different changes from year to year. Even though you are faced with many challenges from year to year, as a teacher you learn to adjust and keep moving.

Best tip for new teachers?
The best advice I can give is to always be prepared, organized, set high expectations, communicate with your parents, be consistent, be willing to put in extra hours, be patient, have a passion for teaching and find time to do home visits with your parents. If you build the relationship, you will get the support, along with teamwork/collaboration. Stay motivated to do your best, reflect on your past for improvement and have a goal in mind that is achievable.

Best tip for career teachers?
Be willing to provide new teachers with the experience of a successful classroom and the value that is needed when it comes to classroom management. Provide an example by your willingness to model the sequence of planning, teaching and strategies to keep students focused. Be there to provide a role model of leadership, adaptability, dependability and enthusiasm that makes an outstanding teacher.

Favorite piece of advice for students?
Be the best you can be, give your all, show respect and get respect.

What does being a Gold Star Teacher mean to you?
It’s amazing when you can influence the lives of students, let them know they are loved, make them feel important, express how excited you are to be their teacher and make them aware of how successful the year will be. A Gold Star Teacher will allow the opportunity to collaboratively construct new visions for teaching and learning in the classroom and how learning can be fun. A Gold Star Teacher will not be afraid to develop a relationship that extends beyond the classroom doors, and be a great leader to others. A Gold Star Teacher knows that one of the most important factors affecting learning is to have a strong relationship with students and parents. Make students aware that your greatest reward is to not let them give in, to provide them with encouragement, praise, personal attention and positive reinforcement for success. A Gold Star Teacher will provide a variety of instructional methods that will respond to students’ differences, including interests, ability, readiness to learn and levels of motivation found in a mixed-ability classroom.