THIS MONTH'S WINNER:
Danielle Wright, kindergarten teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School
Nominated by Auggie and Beth Wand
“Mrs. Wright does so much more than teach lessons. She goes above and beyond to know each of her students, teaches to them individually as well as in a group, and loves them through their emotional growth too. She works tirelessly to make her classroom not just a place of learning, but of fun, awe, inspiration, and encouragement.”
How long have you been teaching at St. Theresa’s?
I am in my sixth year at St. Theresa and my 11th year in elementary education.
Before returning to the classroom after spending time with my son, I taught first grade at Anthem K-8 in Florence and first and second grades at Eduprize School in Queen Creek.
What is the best part about being a teacher?
My favorite is witnessing the growth of my students first-hand. These amazing little people can accomplish big things, and the growth that they experience in kindergarten highlights just how truly capable these young students are. I truly look forward to learning along with my students every day. In our classroom, we call ourselves a “family.” We are a classroom that’s learning, playing, and growing together on our kindergarten journey.
When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
I have always enjoyed working with kids, whether through volunteering as a coach in youth sports or tutoring through the Salvation Army early in my undergrad career. I have always been drawn to help children realize their full potential. I became a teacher to help children foster a love of learning; to experience a small part of a child’s journey as they develop and grow seemed natural.
How do you connect your lessons to the real world?
Children are naturally inquisitive, especially in kindergarten, and I have learned to “go with the flow” regarding their curiosity and questions. They ask the best questions! I have found that addressing these questions and encouraging them is the best way to make the content relevant for each student. Through the process of exploratory and hands-on learning, I present content in multiple modalities. It is incredibly important to reach all learners through their individual learning needs and to allow students to draw parallels to their real-world experiences by asking questions. Making connections to the real world makes learning real and exciting.
What’s it like teaching in this “new” environment?
I operated a hybrid-learning environment last year and it was extremely challenging. I had my “roomers” and “zoomers” and learned how to attend to the needs of my students in the classroom and at home at the same time.
As a teacher, you pour your heart out and hope that every effort you give reaches the students to make their learning experience relevant and meaningful. This year we have been fortunate to be in person. However, different challenges arise as students in the early years learn while wearing masks. As one example, teaching phonemic awareness and reading skills has proven to be challenging in a masked environment.
How do you motivate your students?
Each child is expected to do their best while I offer support, tools, and encouragement along their learning journey. Each child is a life-long member of “Mrs. Wright’s classroom family,” and our class mantra is “we can do hard things!” All children know that they are unique and loved, and within the context of our classroom family, this sense of belonging and support provides all the motivation they need.
Did you grow up in Phoenix?
I am a native Arizonan and grew up in Tempe. I moved into the Arcadia area shortly after my son was born, and I love seeing how the area continues to grow. I enjoy how accessible everything is in Arcadia. We always find ourselves a quick bike ride or drive from a great restaurant or fun park day. I have heard it described that Arcadia is the “small-town feel” in the middle of Phoenix, which pretty well sums it up! My family enjoys spending time with neighbors and friends on our front patio, and we especially love the citrus blooms in the spring.