Featured photo: Michaela Frederick (Martin ’17, ’22) was named Sharon School Teacher of the Year and Weakley County School District Teacher of the Year in 2021-2022. Photo by Nathan Morgan
I have always wanted to be a teacher.
As a child, my stuffed animals became my students, and I taught them using discarded books and worksheets my teachers gave to me.
My inspirational parents encouraged me to never give up and to not be afraid to be myself. They have instilled the drive I have today. I also learned from motivational educators who used creative ways to allow me to understand content, and they always took the time to know me. Their creativity and educational strategies encouraged me to learn more and to help others. To accomplish this goal of helping students, I chose to be a special-education teacher.
I wanted to help children who have learning difficulties to succeed in school so they may also succeed when they complete school. I never thought I would be teaching preschool, but I would not change now for the world. Waking up every morning to see their smiling faces makes me proud of what I do.
As I have approached my fifth year of teaching 3-year-olds in a developmental preschool special-education program, I can say this profession has been one of my greatest joys and blessings. Teaching preschool is not a job; it is dedication. Educating preschool students allows me to bring out my inner child by creating interactive, hands-on and real-world experiences through playing make believe or using puppets.
My students have what I like to call different abilities. They all have different modes of learning, so I must provide different learning opportunities. Successes in my classroom are sometimes big and sometimes small, but witnessing my students playing with other students, sharing with others or even singing songs and participating in games on a daily basis makes me a happy teacher.
Students in my classroom typically have communication delays, and they use communication devices and boards. I am teaching my students how to have a voice in the world, whether they speak or not. They are important; their voices and opinions should be valued no matter their disability.
My journey with UT Martin prepared me for the classroom. UT allowed me to find my voice and to lead professional developments and share my expertise with other teachers. With these accomplishments, I decided to give back to the university by providing opportunities for UTM students to observe me. I want to give them the same experience I had from this wonderful university.
I simply love what I do, and I constantly want to grow and meet the needs of my students. Education is always changing, and teachers must be able to keep up with the changes. The strong foundation from UTM has allowed me to always learn. Taking advantage of learning opportunities encourages me to be a better educator for my students.