Spotlight: Amanda Raupe (OK '16)March 20, 2017
Amanda Raupe (OK '16) chose to teach first grade for one simple reason: She wanted to teach kids to read. "Reading determines a big part of a child's future success," she says. "I love being part of that process." Amanda received Oklahoma's 2016-17 Milken Educator Award at Hilldale Elementary School in Oklahoma City on January 10, 2017.
Milken Educator Awards: How did you end up in education?
Amanda Raupe: I have wanted to be a teacher since I was four. On days off from school, I would gather all the neighborhood kids into our garage and "teach" them. I would get so frustrated with them when they just wanted to have recess time!
As I started high school, I became passionate about my math and science classes. I excelled in calculus and physics and thought I should pursue a career where I could use those talents. I started my undergraduate career as an engineering major. I got an internship after my freshman year of college and loved it. I was designing and building a chemical feed system. I was getting so much hands-on experience. However, at the end each day, I wondered if this was a job I could do forever. Was this a job that would fulfill me intrinsically? Ultimately I decided to change my major to elementary education and never looked back. When I teach, I get to share my love of learning with kids and I get to see them become passionate about the things I am passionate about.
MEA: Why elementary school?
Amanda: I decided to teach elementary school because I wanted to teach kids how to read. I know that reading determines a big part of a child's future success, and I love being part of that process. My favorite thing about first-graders is their love and excitement for learning. Even on bad days, they want to constantly give hugs and tell me how I'm the "best teacher ever." I also love to see how proud and excited they are when they come across something we have learned during the year: "Mrs. Raupe, that's a growing pattern! We learned about that!" I know I have taught a successful lesson when they can transfer the knowledge to other topics.
MEA: What was your first job?
Amanda: My very first job was in the concession stand at the local baseball complex. I was the person who completely reorganized the stockroom to make things run more efficiently. I learned how much fun a job can be when you build relationships with the people you work with. I also learned that your personal attitude can make any job fun and enjoyable. Even though I was getting covered in nacho cheese, regularly lifting cases of water and Coke, and counting 100 pennies for the little boy wanting to buy a Snickers, I enjoyed it!
MEA: Who was your most memorable elementary school teacher?
Amanda: My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Krywicki. I remember he loved the cartoon Tasmanian Devil and had a huge cardboard cutout of him in our classroom. He also confiscated certain unwanted objects and put them in a time capsule. The time capsules lined the tops of the cabinets in his classroom and would not be opened until our high school graduation year. Our senior year of high school, many of us went back to open the time capsule together and reminisce about our fourth-grade days. He did such a great job creating a cohesive classroom atmosphere and challenging us to be our best.
MEA: Any educators in your family?
Amanda: I have two incredible aunts who are educators. My aunt likes to tell a story about a time when I was six and she was grading papers. I insisted that everyone got a sticker on their paper regardless of how they did. They both encouraged me to follow my dream to become a teacher, and I looked up to both of them so much. I believed they had the best job there was.
MEA: What subjects did you love (or not)?
Amanda: My favorite subject was math. I enjoyed it because it was easy for me and I could know for sure if I had the right answer. I liked the consistency in that. I honestly didn't have a least favorite. I really enjoyed school and seemed to be able to appreciate each subject. I loved reading for pleasure. I took a book wherever we went in case I had some time to read. However, English and writing were most difficult for me. I had a very hard time feeling successful when I wrote papers. I overcame my fears of writing by learning how much it helps to brainstorm and plan before sitting down to write.
MEA: Tell us about your first class.
Amanda: When I think about my first class, I wish I could go back in time and teach them again. I remember being so excited that my highest reader could read "silent e" words by the end of the year. (First graders should be reading "silent e" words much sooner than that.)
Most of the year seems like a blur. I had no idea how to be an effective teacher, and I did so many things wrong when it came to classroom management. The hardest thing was being overwhelmed, wanting to be better, but not knowing where to start.
The best and most surprising thing about my first year is how much I needed my teammates. I am on a team with five other first-grade teachers. My first year, half of us were brand new, and the most experienced teacher on our team had been teaching for only two years. I don't think I would have made it past year one without their support, encouragement and lesson plans.
MEA: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Amanda: Since the Award, students at my school have been much more vocal about their appreciation of teachers. Students from past years and students I never personally had in class constantly come up to me to say congratulations and that I deserve it. I've also had several students tell me that they want to be a teacher, just like me, when they grow up. It brings tears to my eyes every single time.
MEA: What do you hope your students remember about you and their time in your class?
Amanda: I hope my students remember how much I care about them and how much I want them to succeed in life. I hope they remember that differences are something to be celebrated. No one is perfect or great at everything. It takes everyone working together to achieve great things. So celebrate the things you are good at, and work hard at the things that are hard.
MEA: How do you involve parents and families in your class?
Amanda: I make sure parents know they can call me if they need anything or have questions. I use Remind 101 to send out reminders to the class, and I also send home notes in their backpacks. Many of the families at my school speak Spanish, so I translate everything I send home to keep everyone informed.
MEA: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Amanda: Small group instruction. During this time, I really get to focus on teaching a small group exactly on their level, and they make so much growth. They also really enjoy coming to groups because they get to feel successful!
MEA: What's the biggest challenge you face in your classroom?
Amanda: The biggest challenge is time. There is not enough time to teach everything I want to teach. My students are at a disadvantage compared with their peers due to socioeconomic status, lack of oral language in the home, and language barriers. Their parents want to do everything they can for their children, but in many cases they just can't. It is difficult to expose these children to the amount of information they need to build their oral language skills, background knowledge and vocabulary.
MEA: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?
Amanda: I would give it to the teachers. Everyone goes above and beyond every day for their students. They put the needs of their students before the needs of themselves and their families. They give to families who can't afford to buy Christmas gifts. They give to families when their apartments catch fire and they lose everything. They give even though they can't afford to give. Teachers in Oklahoma are not compensated fairly for the wonderful work they do. I know no one goes into education for the money, but many cannot afford to keep teaching. We are losing incredible and valuable teachers because they cannot pay their bills.
MEA: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Amanda: I would probably be an engineer. I can't say that I would hate my job, but I know I wouldn't love it like I love teaching.
MEA: What can our nation do better to encourage young, capable people to consider teaching as a career? How can we motivate new teachers to stay in the profession?
Amanda: No one can deny the influence teachers have had on their lives. Professionals in all careers can tie part of their success to a teacher who pushed them, encouraged them, or influenced them in some way. Yet teachers do not feel respected or compensated for the job they do. We need to show that teaching is a worthy profession. To motivate new teachers to stay, teachers need to feel supported past their first year of teaching. There should be opportunities to grow and be promoted. It is difficult to see your peers in the corporate world move "up the ladder" with promotions while you, as a teacher, don't have those opportunities unless you want to be an administrator.
MEA: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when..."
Amanda: ...when my students get excited about learning. I love when they ask me what we are learning for the day, as if they have been looking forward to it all night.
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