Dialogue, trust top teacher’s priorities
For any teacher, figuring out the manner by which each student learns can be a difficult task. For Eudora Middle School Teacher Rachel Padfield, who teaches special education and was chosen as the Eudora Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Month for February, that task is compounded by keeping in mind the skill levels each of her students have within each of their other classes.
"With special education teachers, one of the things they have to do that other teachers don't have to do is keep track of all subjects, they have to communicate with all teachers on a daily basis and keep open lines of communication as well as working with students," Eudora Middle School Principal Richard Proffitt said. "That's one of her areas of strength. She does such a wonderful job of keeping track of each one of her students in each of their classes.
"She understands how they are performing and what levels they're at and exactly what she needs to do to help them out and does a great job of communicating with teachers to formulate plans that are going to be the most beneficial to the students."
Padfield, who has been teaching for 10 years and is in her fourth year at Eudora, teaches students with many differing ability levels including learning those with learning disabilities, autism or some who are emotionally disturbed.
"We have a wide variety, and through the day I teach all of them at some point in time," she said.
The Emporia State University graduate said she was happy to just come in second place after Eudora Middle School teacher Joe Pickett won the award in October.
"To get it this time was very exciting and humbling to know that people value what we do in here, because I'm
not a core teacher," Padfield said. "I don't have a specific area, I just kind of do a little of everything."
Indeed, she teaches study skills classes, which focus on helping students their with homework and organizational skills; a reading class, which helps students with reading comprehension; and also and art class.
For Padfield, March brings longer days at work, as the former college softball player puts in extra time coaching the Eudora High School junior varsity softball team.
"Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating yet, but I love getting outside, especially after being in here (the classroom) all day," she said.
She looks forward to the extra coaching she'll need to do with an especially young squad this year.
"There's going to be a lot of teaching, which is going to be fun," Padfield said. "I have a great time out there playing."
She is also a mother of two daughters - 4-year-old Sydney and 1-year-old Aubrey - and her husband Mark is a teacher and athletic trainer at Tonganoxie High School. It can make for a hectic schedule, so when spare time does exist, she doesn't feel the need to fill it with more activities.
For instance, on a night when her husband had a game to attend, she simply spent time making tacos and playing games with Sydney and Aubrey.
"I wouldn't change it," Padfield said. "When I was on maternity leave least year, I didn't know what to do with myself. I missed being out of here (at the middle school) with all of these people."
While Padfield attributed some of her success to the Eudora School District's commitment to technology in the classroom, she especially values the approachability of Proffitt, as well as her colleagues.
"He (Proffitt) is always willing to do what we need, and is always open to discuss things, which is not something I've always had in the past," she said. "I really like the middle school atmosphere. The teachers are so fantastic and are easily approachable. They're really flexible, and I haven't had that before either."
Padfield's brother Ryan is mentally handicapped, which is what made her get in to teaching special education. The insight she has regarding what it's like to have someone you love be mentally handicapped has helped her deal with the families of many of her students.
"Where Rachel is concerned, one of the reason that we have been successful is that she has been able to form relationships with students and their families," Proffitt said. "She is a person who is always looking out for their best interest. She can communicate with the parents and she has gained their trust and is able to talk with them on a level that maybe some teachers aren't able to. That trust factor is what enables her to get through to the students and get through to the parents and really put the programs in the place that we need to have them."
What makes all of the hours worth it to Padfield, though, is seeing her students find success.
"I see the kids over at the high school and they're getting A's and B's, so I'm like, 'Oh, yea,'" Padfield said. "It's so nice to see them doing well so I wasn't just a hag for no reason.