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Teacher Feature: Melynee Naegele
B.S. in Special Education (1987); M.S. in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with an option in K-8 mathematics (2015)
Current School Site:
Will Rogers Junior High School (Claremore Public Schools in Claremore, Oklahoma)
Special Education Mathematics Teacher (Grades 6-8)
Number of Years Teaching:
How did your time at OSU prepare you to be a successful teacher?
The knowledge I gained at Oklahoma State equipped me with best practices in establishing a positive classroom climate where all students feel safe, valued, heard and considered to be a vital part of the learning community. The relationships and community built with students serve to remove most, if not all, obstacles in the classroom.
How have your own experiences as a student affected your approach to teaching?
I distinctly remember an algebra assignment I was working on as a student. I was struggling with the strategies and making mistakes. I felt like I was never going to understand the concept or complete the assignment and course successfully. This experience serves to remind me how my students with disabilities feel when confronted with many of the assignments they are given. This challenge encourages me to reflect on my practices as a teacher and ways I can support students during their struggles. I share this memory with my students, and I love letting them know that I too wrestle with math at times. Struggling means we are learning!
What approach or strategy to you employ in your classroom?
I’ve adopted a constructivist philosophy rich in growth mindset tenets concerning my teaching practices. Every person who enters our classroom is a learner as well as a teacher. I employ inquiry-based instruction where students are encouraged to discuss, collaborate, think critically and problem solve. That kind of learning ensures students are developing a conceptual understanding of the content while also cultivating life skills needed to be successful.
You have presented at numerous conferences, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Innov8 Conference and Twitter Math Camp. What do you take away from those opportunities?
As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” Presenting at math conferences aids in my quest to be a lifelong learner. In the process, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with math leaders and innovators from all over the world. In order for an educator to remain abreast of current research and utilize best practices, they must have a solid professional learning community to rely on for support and collaboration.
What advice would you give a new teacher?
It’s imperative for educators to connect with, support and challenge one another to continue learning and developing as teachers. Educators must remain well-informed of current research concerning learning and best practices. Earning a college degree is only the beginning of the learning process, and the greatest teachers know that excellence is a journey on which one never truly arrives.
What do you want others to know about education in our state?
Students are being placed in overcrowded classrooms and many of their needs are going unmet because schools don’t have the resources to purchase curriculum and hire additional teachers, counselors and support staff. Education in Oklahoma needs to be adequately funded so our children have a viable future in a STEM driven world. I want more for our children, and I hope that others do too.