Teacher Spotlight: Elizabeth Straw

PUBLISHED: Thursday, March 2, 2023 by Emilee Howell

Elizabeth Straw
Haynes Bridge Middle School
6th Social Studies Teacher

1. How long have you been teaching? 
I am about to finish my 34th year of teaching.

2. What inspired you to pursue a career in education? 
I decided to become a teacher at a young age. I was most inspired by my 4th-grade teacher. She worked hard to create an inviting classroom with lots of opportunities to grow as writers and thinkers.

3. What is your favorite thing about teaching or your biggest success story? 
My favorite thing about teaching is seeing students’ eagerness to learn about the world. Some of their favorite activities are when they can research and share information about a self-chosen topic related to an area of the world we are studying.

One of my biggest success stories is not academic. 
I had a class one year that was almost all boys (only 2 girls).  They would race to come to my class before the tardy bell so they could participate in a self-created rhythm band. They would bang books on desks, pound on my metal desk, and in general, demonstrate that “they had the beat”. They were really very good and could be heard all over my end of the building. Once the tardy bell rang, they would stop, get into their seats, and we would have class. 

What I learned from that was the importance of give and take. I could have demanded that they just come to class and sit down rather than be so loud, but by allowing them some time to express themselves, rather than resent me, we created a positive caring environment that made teaching and learning much easier and enjoyable.

4. What challenges do you face in the classroom? 
I face many of the same classroom challenges as other teachers across disciplines and grade levels. Getting “buy-in” from students, helping those who are academically behind (especially in vocabulary acquisition), managing behavior calmly and consistently, and figuring out how to tailor my teaching to meet the learning strengths of my students while stretching them at the same time. 

5. How do Gallopade products or Gallopade Curriculum help you in the classroom? 
Having access to the Gallopade Social Studies curriculum makes a huge difference in how I teach. The curriculum provides online and workbook options for delivering instruction. The suggested activities and project ideas give me ways to change up what I do in the classroom.  Auto-graded assignments make identifying areas of need and providing feedback easier and provides time to focus on planning instruction. 

6. What is something that every student should know about teachers? 
If there was something I wish every student knew about teachers, it would be that we are here to help them learn and grow, not to punish and bore them. Often, I feel that my students see me as their adversary rather than as a helper and encourager.

7. What advice would you impart to a new teacher or someone who wants to become a teacher? 
If you are a new teacher or thinking about making teaching your career choice, the best advice I could give you is:

  1. Think through your plan for how you want to work: instruction delivery methods, arrangement of the room, behavior management plan, class routines, and procedures.
  2. When you are planning, think of your preferences and those of your students; both are important and need to be respected.
  3. Be flexible. Your plans may need to be reviewed and “tweaked” or totally changed. There will be things that will come up that will require you to adjust “on the fly." A wise principal used to say, “If you stay flexible, you’ll never get bent out of shape."

8. What do you love to do when you're not teaching?
When I am not teaching, I enjoy sewing, traveling, and visiting with friends and family.

Do you know an educator who goes above and beyond the call of duty to inspire their students? Nominate them to be our next Teacher Spotlight!