This week our featured teacher is Tyais Dial, who teaches third graders at the Tarawa Terrace Elementary school aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Dial has been teaching at TTE for seven years, but has 16 years of experience in the educational field. Dial graduated with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from California State Dominguez Hills University and has a Master’s of Special Education and Dual Teaching Credential from California Baptist University. Dial also has an Educational Leadership Degree from Libety University.
Q. What encouraged you to pursue your job as an educator?
A. Education has always played a major role in many facets of my life. As an adolescent, I was always encouraged by my family and teachers to do my best, get good grades, and take rigorous classes to ensure a college education and better opportunities.
My teachers were my biggest advocates though.They fostered in me a desire to learn, grow, and challenge myself. They told me I can be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard and set goals – and you know what? I believed them!
I especially believed it after hearing it from passionate teachers like my English teacher and my Algebra I teacher.
As an undergraduate, my personal goal was to possess a strong work ethic, knowing I would be on a path to post-graduate studies, as well as being the first one in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree.
During this time, I went through many family tragedies; including losing my brother and taking care of my son in the burn center for an extended amount of time. It took a bit longer than expected, but God’s timing is always perfect isn’t it?
Continuing along those lines, as a mother of school-aged children, I try to teach my babies how to be successful in their educational endeavors, as well as how powerful education can be if it is used to change people and things for the better.
Finally, having been an employee of both the public and private sectors, determination to create an environment which assists students and district employees in areas of quality education without compromising a Christian worldview is crucial.
No matter the channel, revisiting the educational discipline sowed many seeds of interest, which eventually blossomed into my passion to be an educator.
Being passionate about becoming an educator not only came from being immersed in the field, but by understanding that education is more than just teaching in a classroom or learning best practices, but a sincere love for children and a passion for helping them succeed and develop personally. Teaching fills my life with purpose and I am blessed each and every day for this opportunity.
Q. What encouraged you to pursue education within your specific age level/curriculum?
A. I originally began my career with older children in the area of special education (11-21 year olds). It was very challenging, but rewarding to work with middle and high school students. However, my passion was for younger students who are more “pliable.”
I felt like I could help lay the foundation for how they view education at an early age. Not only that, but I can develop them into their future selves. So, I started teaching the younger kiddos and the rest is history.
Q. What is your main classroom philosophy?
A. My classroom philosophy encompasses the fact that we are a family when we walk in the door and no matter what has happened outside our door, we must leave it there and start fresh. We understand that families do not always agree, but we have genuine care and compassion for one another.
We do a morning chant.
I say, “You can be whatever you want to be.”
Kids say, “With hard work.”
I say, “What do you want to be today?”
Students raise their hands and tell me things like, be a good listener, a mathematician, a friend, be kind, a great reader.
We also say, “The only mistakes you make are the ones you don’t learn from.”
We have meetings at any time of the day to reflect, dicuss something they did not quite get, or other issues they are having.
They know I am firm and I will push them, but they also know I love them and would do anything for them.
I attend birthday parties, sporting events, or other things that will make my students feel supported. If their basic needs are met, then I know, “class is in session.”
Q. What lesson have you learned from your students?
A. I learn lessons from my students each day – so, many valuable lessons. An important lesson I learned from them is to never assume anything.
Don’t assume they know something or they are not capable of learning things. Don’t assume what the last teacher said will necessary happen with you in your class. Don’t assume anything about their skills, knowledge, dispositions or backgrounds. Don’t assume where they come from determines who they will turn out to be.
I have learned students benefit more from interactions and practical applications rather than lectures. I learned this to be true of students of all ages.
This has been especially evident when I personally have sat through lecture trainings that are more of the lecture learning style. Because of this, I am more reflective in my classroom and try to not be so long winded when I am introducing or explaining a concept.
Q. What is your favorite part of being an educator?
A. Seeing smiling kids that love you despite of your flaws and forgive you quickly when you make a mistake. I love when kids finally understand or get the conceptual knowledge of something they are learning. I love the joy of working with kids from all walks of life and seeing things from their perspective.
Q. What advice would you give to upcoming/new educators?
A. Be flexible, patient, positive, and proactive, not reactive. Love your students. Love your students as you love or would love your own kids, because they are yours during the hours that they are with you. Understand that you will not be perfect, some days you will get frustrated with new standards and initiatives, but if you go into it with students in mind first, it will make the difference. Collaborate, because you have great ideas and so do other teachers. Be yourself and don’t try to be another teacher!
Q. What is a favorite memory from your teaching career?
A. When I taught at a school for emotionally disturbed students. High-need students were sent to this school because they could not function in regular education or even special education in a regular high school. I had a 12-year-old student that was ADHD and also suffered from severe emotional issues, which stemmed from a domestic incident and both her parents were sent to prison. She was sent to live with her grandparents. Long story short, I worked with this girl intensely, because she was behind in school as well. She eventually moved to another home, and consequently to another school. I was in Target five years later and ran into her. She ran up to me and told me she graduated high school and she had a 3.0 GPA. She headed off to college soon and she wanted to thank me for believing in her. We both cried in Target.
Q. What advice would you give to a parent of a 3rd grader?
A. I know third grade seems like a huge leap. I hear it from parents all the time…they have arrived into the dreaded “upper grades.” They will be learning more complex concepts, their level of conceptual knowledge will grow in all subjects, they have to be more independent, and they must read to learn instead of learning to read. I know it is a lot for parents to handle. My advice is to relax, they will rise to the occasion. I would also tell them to keep the communication lines open between parent and teacher, support and praise successes (even very small ones), and be ready for their kids to make mistakes (and let them learn from them).
Q. What changes would you like to see implemented in the school system within the next five years?
A. I would like to see a teacher task force/advisory committee in each district, which is directly linked to each superintendent and other upper leadership to assist in making educational decisions (in regard to curriculum, implementation of educational goals and learning communities). I think sometimes administrators who have often been out of the classroom do not fully understand how implementing affects student learning in practice (only in theory and what some research says). I think they are great at seeing the whole forest, but sometimes have a hard time just looking at the trees. I think this type of committee will bridge the gap between student-classroom learning/teachers and administrators.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face as an educator in a military town?
A. The mobility of the community can sometimes hinder the educational process of some children. Change is hard for some children and educational change and environment can be even harder. I also believe that as we have gotten closer to meeting the mark of being uniform as far as pacing and what is being taught, we still have to be very intentional about the curriculum, pacing, and teaching above the standard. We have to make sure we know that our students have conceptual knowledge and problem solving skills that carry them a long way.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share about being an educator?
A. I love being an educator; educating; empowering.