John Greer third grade teacher Rachel Gillins was recently named the February Teacher of the Month by the Hoopeston Education Association.
“The HEA is thrilled to recognize Rachel Gillins as the February Teacher of the Month,” HEA President Dylan Swank said. “In addition to serving as one of our Association Representatives for the last several years, Rachel is an integral part of John Greer Elementary. We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated, caring teacher in our schools, working with our students. Congratulations Rachel!”
Sara Anderson, another John Greer staff member, said of Gillins, “She’s always willing to go the extra mile for John Greer. She’s involved in many different committees, volunteers as a parent on the PTO, and does countless things behind the scenes.”
The Chronicle asked Gillins several questions about her approach to teaching. Her answers are listed below:
What is your approach to teaching?
I believe in using a lot of different methods to engage my students. I love using music and singing songs to teach concepts. Previous students will frequently come up to me after the third grade to tell me they still sing the multiplication songs we used in third grade. Teaching math, I try to use manipulatives and hands on tools whenever possible. I also do a lot of my teaching in smaller groups where we can better focus on the needs of individual students. I think that I also approach teaching individual students as a mystery waiting to be solved. I love getting to know my students; discovering their talents, interests and strengths; figuring out what they struggle with and working alongside them to come up with ways to best help them learn the material. My hope is that in the end, students leave my class knowing they were first and foremost cared for as a person and that I believe in their ability to be successful going forward.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I had some amazing teachers growing up that really inspired me to become a teacher. Teaching Sunday school and vacation bible school at church during high school and college really solidified my desire to teach when I realized how much I enjoyed teaching those students.
What was your favorite subject in school and is that what you teach now?
I don’t know if I really had a favorite subject in school. At different times in life, I’ve loved different subjects. I remember loving reading in grade school because I loved to read. I have also always enjoyed math. In high school, I remember really enjoying writing and history. Currently, I teach math as well as science and I absolutely love getting to specialize in these two subjects.
Do you have a memorable teacher in your past who made a difference in your life?
I have had so many great teachers growing up going to school here in Hoopeston. However, one of my most memorable teachers was definitely Mrs. Sherry Johnson in third grade. We knew she loved us and she pushed me to be a better reader. She is definitely one of those teachers who inspired me to become a teacher.
What is your approach to classroom discipline?
First and foremost, I try to really focus on building relationships with my students. The stronger the relationship, the less discipline issues I find I have. I also make my classroom expectations simple and clear. I spend a lot of time going over and teaching my class the expectations from the very beginning of the year. At the beginning of each year, I try to really communicate the reason behind these expectations so that they understand why I expect these behaviors from them. Throughout the year, I try to really highlight and focus on the positives I see in each student to hopefully encourage more positive behaviors and discourage the negative ones.
What do you hope students will take with them into the future from their education experiences with you?
My hope is that in the end, students leave my class knowing they were first and foremost cared for as a person. I hope they leave my room knowing that I believe in their ability to be successful going forward. I want them to be inspired to keep trying their best and to find out what they love. I also want my students know that I will always be one of their biggest cheerleaders. I love seeing previous students succeeding in their lives.