A.J. Cassidy, West High School 

Subject: English

Years Teaching: 5 years

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, writing, attending West High events (sports, music, and theatre), coaching basketball (AAU and Wahawk girls), spending time with friends and family, and watching sports – especially cheering on the Waterloo Black Hawks.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? What I enjoy most about teaching is the fact that every day is a new opportunity – that every class period is different, and that there is such strong diversity in opinions and interests that things are always fresh and engaging. I feel like in teaching especially, there are continuously opportunities to learn something new.

What do you find most challenging about teaching? The most challenging thing about teaching is the feeling that there is never enough time in the day. I always feel like I want to do more or could do more, but there is only so much time that we are afforded. I feel a lot of internal pressure to be everywhere at once, and that is not realistic in our world.

Best tip for new teachers: Never be afraid to ask for help. Henry Ford could not have made the Model T without someone else inventing the wheel. Look to others for guidance- everyone was once in those shoes.

Best tip for career teachers: Keep yourself open to new possibilities – never stop seeking opportunities for growth. I always appreciate the opportunity to host field experience students from the colleges and universities- sometimes they have a fresh perspective or idea that I never would have considered.

Favorite piece of advice for students: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

What being a Gold Star Teacher means to you: Being recognized as a Gold Star Teacher is a humbling experience. There are so many worthy nominees each year, I feel fortunate to even be considered. One of the things I strive to do at West High is to encourage participation and increase acknowledgment of students and staff, so receiving this award is a tremendous honor.