By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Dawn Blair completed her elementary and high school years in Somerville, which is outside Memphis. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and a master’s degree in education from Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois. She is a certified online instructor, as well.
Blair has taught in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district for 12 years, the entire time at Pattengill Elementary.
She and her husband, Eugene Blair, moved to Ann Arbor from Chicago 12 years ago and have two daughters. Nia, a junior at Pioneer High School, is a member of the symphony band and participates in Future Stars. Imani, who runs track for the Ann Arbor Track Club, is in the sixth grade at Tappan Middle School, where she is a member of the band. The family enjoys traveling, movies, and roller-skating.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing I have learned about teaching is to always be creative and excited about the curriculum. You have to embrace the differences that students bring to the class each and everyday. I try to make my lessons engaging and integrated with technology. I have found that students are more interested if they can relate the lesson to real life. The most important lesson is to develop a relationship with your students. Students feel they are in a safe learning environment, if they know that you care about them inside and outside of the classroom.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about learning is to always be open and willing to make changes. I always like to discuss various ideas about the curriculum with my colleagues in my building as well as in other buildings. I’m always looking forward to new ideas that I can implement. I consider myself a life learner.
Which apps and websites would you recommend to other teachers?
How do you stay organized? I try to keep my desk as organized as possible. I keep my student’s work in portfolios in a separate area. I try to make sure I always use my calendar to keep me current with what’s on my to do list.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is when I see the light in a students’ eye when they grasp a concept and when a student says, “I get it” and they can state the strategy or concept in their own words.
Who inspires you and why? My mother inspires me. Although she is deceased now, she taught third grade for 38 years. She received the National Outstanding Teacher Award. My mother always believed that every child could learn. It might not be at the same rate as others, but they can and will learn. I have that same philosophy. I have to reach each student at his or her edge of learning. In doing this, I have to differentiate my instruction, which is fine with me because I want every child to be a successful student as well as a successful citizen.
Who was your favorite teacher, and why? My favorite teacher was my third grade teacher, Mrs. Glass. Mrs. Glass always encouraged me to be the best I can be. It’s okay if I’m not perfect but as long as I do my best then that’s all anyone can ask. So, I learned to prepare myself by studying and researching and aiming for the moon. If I do not reach the moon but I did my best and I reach the stars then that’s okay because I tried and I showed growth.
What has surprised you most about the profession? Although teaching is a lot of work, I have fun learning with my students and from my students. I enjoy coming to class and I’m proud to say that I’m an educator.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I believe everyone needs to realize that everyday is different. You have to be very flexible and be ready to make a change in your lesson and in your schedule in a moments notice. Also, teaching is not an eight to five job. You will have to grade papers at home and on the weekends as well as making plans for your lessons. Although, it’s time consuming and hard work it is very rewarding.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher? I would tell a college student they need to be passionate about teaching. They need to become lifelong learners because not only are you teaching students, but you have to be willing to learn from your colleagues. When I was hired into the district, I was fortunate to have Mrs. Helen Oliver (now retired) as one of my mentors, and she is my second mother. She always tells me, “It’s not about the money, but it’s about the students.” That statement is one we all should keep in mind.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading and listening to music.
Where do you see yourself in five years? When I think about my career path, I plan to continue to be in the classroom teaching students full time but I’m also interested in exploring options with the Ann Arbor Virtual Academy.
In addition to teaching your classes, what else do you contribute to your school community? I enjoy attending my students’ extracurricular activities on the weekends when my schedule permits. I’m a member of our school PBIS committee, N.A.A.P.I.D. coordinator for our school, member of the district New Teacher Retention Committee, and Pattengill’s building curriculum leader for social studies.