Teacher Appreciation Month: Meet the Zieglers, part 2

For the Ziegler family, education is a bit of a family tradition. Karen, and her two daughters Kristie and Katria, work in the Billings school system. Karen has worked in education for almost four decades — she taught fifth and sixth grade for 21 years before becoming an elementary principal. She is now the principal at Orchard Elementary School. Kristie has taught in School District #2 for 11 years, and is now a Literacy Coach for the district’s new primary teachers and reading interventionists. This is Katria’s first year; she teaches second grade at Sandstone Elementary. The Ziegler ladies say teaching is one of the most rewarding challenges they have ever undertaken.

Because we are celebrating moms, teachers, and women in general all month long, Simply Jessica recently sat down with the Zieglers to see how education has changed over the years. Here is part two of the interview. Did you miss part one? Check it out here!

SFM: What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned through your teaching experience?

Karen: I’ve learned to be a good listener. To try and understand a student, parent, or teacher from their individual perspectives when they come to you with an issue or concern. 

Kristie: Everything is not perfect! You are going to make mistakes, and you are going to spend a lifetime learning how to do and teach things better. In the words of a colleague of mine, “Life is messy, and anyone who says it isn’t is lying.” Grit and the internal motivation to be better will make you the person you want to become. Working hard is always the key to success, and no matter how things turn out, hard work always pays off in the end. 

Katria: The biggest life lesson I have learned through my first year of teaching is that you will never be caught up, and you will always have lots of work to do the next day. I would spend hours after school planning for the next day or the rest of the week, when really I was not being productive. I learned that it is important to take things a day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time, and focus on what is most important for the next day. If you start dwelling on next week’s lesson plans too early you get overwhelmed, and forget what is most important at this moment in time. 

SFM: What’s the funniest thing you’ve witnessed as a teacher?

Karen: There are too many funny things that happen throughout the day, or that just make you smile. Teachers could write novels about the funny things that happen throughout the day. It is all about building relationships with students, and the trust and security that students feel — when something funny happens, students know that you care, and it’s okay to make a mistake or share a laugh. 

Kristie: Kids really do say the darnedest things, every day. So that cliched phrase we could write a book with all the things our students say is totally true. I’m actually going to share a colleague’s story, because it’s just too great not to share. Her class was talking about Martin Luther King, and a very innocent girl in class referred to another student as “black.” The rest of the class looked at her in astonishment, and told her that she shouldn’t use that word. They told her she should say “African American.” The little girl felt horrible that she had upset the class, and even more horrible that she had upset a classmate (who actually wasn’t offended). So the teacher, my colleague, calmly talked to her and the class about using politically correct terminology when you are referring to someone of a race or culture different from your own. The little girl nodded in understanding, and they went about their day. After recess the class was finishing an art project, and the little girl looked up and very seriously asked, “Is there anyone who has an African American crayon I can borrow?” This is by far one of the best stories I have ever heard. 

Katria: The funniest thing that has ever happened in my classroom is my students continue to think (even after correcting them) that hand sanitizer is called “hanitizer”. 

SFM: Why is education so important to society as a whole?

Karen: Education paves the way for us to find our strengths, creativity, and God given gifts to be used to become the best people we can, to make the world a better place to live. We need quality teachers who are willing to continue learning and bettering themselves throughout their teaching careers. Teachers need to provide a safe and structured environment in order for their students to learn. If students’ basic needs are being met, then the learning will occur. It is not about just collecting a paycheck. Teachers affect students’ lives in ways they will never know, and students remember both the good and the bad. 

Kristie: Education is important to society because we are teaching our future. We want our students to someday build amazing relationships and careers that make our country (and world) a better place through math, science, writing, literature, technology, and the arts. Without education, many kids wouldn’t have the chance to change the outcome of the less than ideal lives they live outside of school. School is not just about the actual academics, but learning and working together towards common and individual goals. If you only ever see one side of things, or one type of person, how can you ever make informed decisions about anything, unless you are educated about what you don’t know. Our future citizens depend on education, which is why good quality teachers are key. 

Katria: Education is important to society because not only are we teaching academics that our students will need to know and use in the real world, but we are also teaching them social skills. It is important for them to know how to be good citizens, and how to work with one another. It is also important for them to understand the role education is going to play in their futures. 

About the author...Born and raised in southeast Texas, Jessica currently lives in Billings, Montana with her husband, her two year old daughter Savannah, and their newest addition, one year old Emma Kate. Jessica graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. By day, Jessica works as a licensed Realtor, and moonlights as a freelance writer/photographer for several businesses around town.