Pam Friday, Angell Elementary Young 5s teacher

Pam Friday grew up on the west side of Michigan near Kalamazoo.  She graduated from Mattawan High School and then attended and received her teaching degree from The University of Michigan. Both of her parents were educators—her mother was an elementary educator for 40-plus years and her father was an actor, writer, and university professor.

Friday first joined AAPS in 1995 as an instructional support person at Wines Elementary. The next school year,  she became the computer lab teacher at Angell.  She next became a classroom teacher in 5th grade at Lawton.  When a first grade job opened at Angell the following year, she rejoined the Angell staff and has taught there ever since. Friday has been a first grade, kindergarten, K/1 split, and reading intervention teacher at Angell and Thurston.  This is her sixth year as a Young Fives teacher.

What is one of your fondest memories of teaching?
I don’t know if fondest is the exact right word, but a profound memory for me is the first day seeing kids in person again after the virtual year.  It was a really big deal to be in the same physical space as children again.

What inspired you to become a teacher? 
Growing up in a family of educators and working as a  parapro in a summer program for children of migrant farm workers. I distinctly remember the first time I sat with a child as he learned to read.  It was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had. 

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
“My child loves coming to school.”

In which other teacher’s classroom would you like to enroll, if only for a day? Why?
I would love to spend the day in each one of the classrooms of my Young 5s colleagues.  I am inspired by seeing what others are doing!

In your 26 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
The most important thing I have learned is to look at the whole child and understand them as a human being when I am interacting with them.  

Describe an average workday. 
I get to school early to plan and prep because once the kids come it is nonstop busy!  With 4 and 5-year-olds, there is always someone or something that needs attention.  When I am not with the kids during the day, I collaborate with colleagues, check and return emails, get set up for the next lesson/activity, and try to remember to take a bathroom break!

What are the best and hardest things about being a teacher?
I just love being around kids. But another great thing about being a teacher is that it is never the same year to year.  There are always things to learn, opportunities to be creative, and new challenges.

The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it is not easy to let it go at the end of the workday.  I don’t know any teachers who haven’t awakened at night puzzling over a struggling child or thinking about things that need to get done.  

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
Don’t try to do it all on your own.  Find a mentor and collaborate with others.  

What’s the happiest part of your day?
I love greeting the kids first thing in the morning and starting a new day with them.

What makes a good day at school?
When lessons go smoothly, the kids leave happy, and I feel like progress has been made.  I also love days when we do something special or different, like field trips, visitors, and special activities. 

Apps you can’t live without: 
My Google Calendar and Google Keep. 

What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?
I wish I had more skills and tools for teaching social-emotional learning.  I also really appreciate everything I have learned over the course of my career about meeting the needs of a diverse population of students and teaching with a social justice lens. 

How do you keep students engaged?
By being responsive to their learning styles, interests, and behavior.

How do you show school spirit?
Friday is T-shirt day! Every Friday I wear a T-shirt.  Sometimes it is an Angell shirt, sometimes a “Friday” shirt, and sometimes just something that the kids like or something we are learning about.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
Having a positive impact on the growth and development of a child.  

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
I hope people understand how seriously we take our jobs and how much behind-the-scenes thinking, planning, collaborating, and prep go into everything we do with the kids. 

How do you recharge?
Meditation, nature, yoga, video games, cooking for people, family, and friend time.

How do you spend your summers?
Camping, hiking, spending time outside, catching up on reading, and sometimes teaching summer school. I also like to choose one thing I want to change, improve, or add to my teaching the next year and give it some in-depth thought..

How do you think students will remember you and your class?
I think they will remember it as a fun, safe place to learn with a teacher who knew and cared about them.

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