Team work

Team Work

Sarah Kirchoff Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom

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When I became a first-year teacher, I joined a team of exceptional educators that had been on the same team together for sixteen years. The person I replaced had retired and in turn, I was given the opportunity to join an experienced first-grade team that was incredibly accepting, helpful and seasoned. I did not realize what a gift this was at the time, but now that I am one of the most seasoned teachers on my staff, I see what an exception that was. I stayed at that school for four years and worked beside those amazing women each day taking it all in. I left that school to be home with my own growing family during the day. When I decided to go back into the classroom, I never found another team like that first-grade team. I have worked with many wise and wonderful teachers, but none quite like those in the first part of my career.

During my teaching career, I have been on five different teams so far. Some of those changes occurred because I moved to a different school, district, or grade level. At one point, I was asked to teach a different grade level because our team was “too strong”. The principal needed someone to move to a grade level that needed a more experienced and effective teacher. I agreed to move grade levels, but the chemistry on the new team wasn’t as solid as my previous team. That team did not appreciate a fresh perspective or the perception that they “needed” a new team member. It strained our relationship from the start. The relationship you have with your teammates is important to the success of the team and the students in your classroom. Relationships are the key, right? We need to build positive relationships with our students, but the same can be said for building a relationship with your peers.

I am currently on a fantastic team. We communicate effectively, meet weekly, have open discussions, and build each other up. I also know that this is a rare gift. We have a new member on our team, and I draw inspiration from those amazing first-grade teachers from my first few years of teaching. They accepted me, listened to me, and guided me through those first four years of my career. I hope to make our new teammate feel the same way. Building a strong team takes effort and work, but it is worth it for all involved. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be guided by incredible educators. My goal is to make our up-and-coming teammates feel the same way.

My original team members have all since retired or passed away. The time I spent on that team taught me how to communicate, plan, organize, analyze, and have fun! I can only hope I have the same effect on our new teachers. What was the best team you have been a part of?


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Sarah Kirchoff is a kindergarten teacher in the Higley Unified School District. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education. She began her teaching career way back in August 1999, when everyone was worried about Y2K. She did not even have computers in her classroom at that time! Since then, she has taught first grade for four years, preschool for three years, second grade for two years and kindergarten for twelve years. She has worked for three different school districts during her teaching career. During this time, she has been able to identify which grade she found to be the most enjoyable. Her greatest teaching passion is for kindergarten. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She was teacher of the year at her school in the 2019-2020 school year. Most recently, she became a National Board Certified Teacher as an Early Childhood Generalist in December of 2020. She currently serves on numerous committees at her school including school site council, the instructional leadership team, and the culture and climate team. She is a mentor teacher at her school and has mentored numerous interns and student teaching candidates. When she is not busy with school commitments, she spends time with her family. She has a husband who is also a teacher, and four children. Two of which are students at NAU and two that are in high school. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading books and spending time with family, friends and her two dogs. Young children need a teacher that is always advocating for them, socially, emotionally, and academically. Sarah wants every student she encounters to realize their potential and she is willing to help in any way she can. The impact early childhood educators have on students reaches far beyond their younger years. Sarah wants to leave a positive impact on her students so they can continue to have wonderful educational experiences beyond her classroom.

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