Spotlight: 10 Questions for Joni Readout (IA '17)March 7, 2018
As a TAP master teacher, Joni Readout (IA ‘17) defines success as evidence of growth in student achievement and teacher effectiveness. She is inspired by the educators she works with: “They challenge and push my thinking.” Joni received Iowa’s 2017-18 Milken Educator Award at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School in Leon on Nov 29, 2017.
1. What went through your mind when you heard your name called at your surprise notification?
Joni Readout: Complete shock! I told Gary [Stark, AR ‘01] when I got down to the podium that I thought I was going to pass out. They wanted to take pictures and all I was worried about was getting weak-kneed and falling down in front of all of our students and staff.
2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?
Joni: They were all so excited for me. I received a lot of hugs and congratulations. I think that the Award ceremony and the speakers at the assembly had a large impact on my students because they heard about the value of education and the value of teachers.
3. How did you end up in education?
Joni: I knew in high school that I wanted to pursue education because of my experiences as a swim instructor and lifeguard. The gratification I felt when I taught children how to swim and saw their progress on a daily basis directed me down my path of becoming an educator.
4. Who are your role models as an educator?
Joni: I admire the work and spirit of Rick Wormeli, Todd Whitaker, and Garnett Hillman. Their passion for education is unmatched and they are models of continuous learning and growth. I am also inspired by the educators I work with on a daily basis as a TAP master teacher. They challenge and push my thinking.
5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Joni: My class period of 32 rambunctious seventh-graders who loved the song "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson—I always played music between our class periods. Going to get a group of boys out of football practice, after teaching only for a couple of weeks, because they had made a mess in my classroom and had to come back in and clean it up. Those boys and I had a really good relationship the rest of the year. Reading The Outsiders and The Giver, along with countless other books, with my students and watching their ideas of the world grow as they analyzed such great stories. My amazing co-teacher taught me so much about expectations, classroom management, having fun in the classroom, controlled chaos, and how valuable it is to have a relationship with all students.
6. What are students most likely to remember about their time working with you?
Joni: My positivity, my high expectations, and that I believed in each and every one of them. They will remember my smile and greeting, but also that I helped them along the path to success. They will remember that I was consistent in my instruction delivery and also in managing expectations.
7. What’s your biggest challenge in your school?
Joni: I think that our biggest challenge is the low socioeconomic status of our students and the barriers students have in their lives because of poverty. Helping students realize that they can achieve and helping them develop a growth mindset about their learning are pivotal to our students' success.
8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Joni: We are going to invest some of it, use it to pay off some student loans and enjoy it a little.
9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?
Joni: Get ready to dig in, work hard, be challenged and be rewarded with long-lasting memories of the children you work with, their families and your co-workers. The rewards of being a teacher might not come daily and you might have to search for small wins every day, but they are around us all the time. As a teacher, you have to recognize those small wins and be passionate about the impact you have every single day on all the students and people that you encounter. You are a leader in your classroom and all eyes are on you to model positivity, high expectations and consistency, while being an effective educator who is constantly learning and growing within the profession.
10. What’s your definition of success?
Joni: Having proof that I am making a difference for the students and staff within my building. By proof I mean achievement scores, notes from students and staff, celebrating with students when they have achieved, celebrating with teachers when we have tried something new and see evidence of growth and gains. I am always looking at a way to prove growth for myself, but I also use the smiles, laughs, optimism and passion of the people I work with as a sign of success.
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