Spotlight: Catherine Randall (LA '16)February 21, 2017
When her students move on, third-grade teacher Catherine Randall (LA '16) wants them to remember that she loved them, believed in them and helped them believe in themselves: "They'll remember how they felt in my class." Randall received the Milken Educator Award at Joseph J. Davies Elementary in Meraux on October 24, 2016.
Milken Educator Awards: How did you end up in education?
Catherine Randall: I've always had the desire to help and educate children. I don't think of teaching as a job, but as a calling. I treat every day as an opportunity to make my students' lives better.
MEA: Why did you decide to teach elementary school?
Catherine: I love third grade, the grade level I teach. They still love their teacher, but they are independent enough to do things on their own. No two days are the same. My job keeps me on my toes! I enjoy having fun with the kids and laughing with them as we learn together. The most frustrating thing is something I have no control over: time. I would love more time with them. I begin our day before the bell and end after it, but I could still use more time. My students are sponges and could just keep learning!
MEA: What was your first job?
Catherine: I had several babysitting jobs and also worked at a bakery. I've always had a strong work ethic. I think you owe any job 100 percent of your effort. Being on time, positive, respectful to others, getting your work done, and communication skills—these have all carried over into my classroom.
MEA: Who was your most memorable elementary school teacher?
Catherine: Jeannie Duke, my mentor teacher when I student-taught. She wasn't my personal elementary teacher, but I'm the teacher I am today because of her.
MEA: What was your favorite subject?
Catherine: I love math. It's always been my favorite. Least favorite was probably science in high school. I struggled, but I kept trying and eventually got through it.
MEA: Tell us about your first class.
Catherine: I had a wonderful class with all kinds of different learning styles and different ability levels. I worked with a great team and supportive administration; I'm not sure if everyone can say that. I don't know how I would have made it without the support of that team. They guided me and helped with planning, the kids and anything else I needed. I spent so much time planning—sometimes all weekend.
Once I kept a student in at recess for not doing homework or misbehaving or something. As he's doing his work in in my room during recess he tells me, "This really isn't a punishment because I like being in here with you." It was so sweet that I told him to go out and play, and not to do whatever it was again.
It must have turned out okay because those kids are now in their twenties and still remember that year in third grade.
MEA: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Catherine: I think they realize that hard work pays off and great things can happen to anyone.
MEA: What do you hope your students remember about their time in your class?
Catherine: That I loved them and cared about their well-being. I want them to look back and say, "She made me believe in myself and she believed in me." They'll remember how they felt in my class.
MEA: How do you involve parents and families in your class?
Catherine: I have the Remind app on my phone so that I can communicate with parents daily. I send them pictures of their kids as often as possible. I send a weekly "Randall Reminder" note home every Monday informing them of upcoming dates, tests, homework, etc., and I also post it on my web page. Parents should always know what their child is learning and how he or she is progressing.
MEA: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Catherine: The morning, when my kids are fresh and ready to learn.
MEA: What's the biggest challenge you face in your classroom?
Catherine: I want to be able to meet the needs of all my students. I want to challenge them on their own levels so they can grow. This can be hard with 26 kids.
MEA: If someone gave you a million dollars to use in your school, what would you do with it?
Catherine: I would make sure every student in the school had a laptop, every classroom was filled with books for enrichment, and we had copy machines in every classroom that never jammed.
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?
Catherine: New teachers need to feel supported. They need help from their team members and, most importantly, support and backing from their administration.
MEA: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when…."
Catherine: ...my kids feel good about themselves and they know I care. Academics are very important, but my students' well-being is most important. Once they know I care about them, they aim to please me, and that's when learning happens.
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