Teaching More than Academics
McKay School alumna chooses to nurture as well as instruct
McKay School alumna Janece Ford knows the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for her first grade students so they can learn and grow. As she expresses it, “I [see] too many children who [need] more parenting and more involved parents.”
A Sandy, Utah native, Ford always knew she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Ford taught third and fifth grades before deciding to stay home to raise her own three children. “When we had our first child, it was important to me to be the one who raised this child and his sisters,” Ford said. “I didn’t want to pay someone else to raise my children while I taught other people’s children.” When the family moved to Texas, Ford began substitute teaching, which led to a permanent position as a first grade teacher at Mitzi Bond Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, where she continues to teach today.
Ford’s time at Mitzi Bond Elementary has given her many opportunities to serve on committees seeking to create a positive impact on the community and on families. She helped plan and organize an event focused on math and reading, at which each committee member planned an activity to help students strengthen their skills in these subjects. Families were encouraged to participate together. Ford also helped plan an annual Mother’s Day tea to help her students celebrate their moms. In the days leading up to the event, the students decorated individual folders in which they collected their mom-themed writing projects as gifts to be presented at the tea. When the mothers arrived, the students sang songs, presented a choral reading about mothers, and enjoyed cookies and punch. “It was a lot of work but worth it," Ford recalled.
But familial activities do not ensure familial support for all students. In addition to her roles on family-supportive committees, Ford knows that it is critical for her to be a positive influence on her students who need personal support. “It is important to have inspiring, effective leaders in the classroom for many reasons,” she explained. “One is [that] many children do not have this kind of leader in their home. We as teachers become the teacher of values and character traits as well as academic subjects.”
Ford’s leadership responsibilities have become more important as the teacher-student relationship shifts to include more aspects of parenting. Students do spend more time with teachers on school days than with their parents. Every child has a different living situation, and for some students the classroom can be the most routine place they have. “I try to [provide] the stable, consistent, and safe environment [for my students],” Ford said.
Ford knows that parents ultimately want their children to be happy. “There are many good parents who are doing the best that they can for their children,” she remarked. She finds this evident when parents talk with her about how they can get their children to be more obedient at home. “We teach values every day in the way we deal with the children and their parents,” Ford said.
Ford finds first grade the most rewarding to teach because she can witness her influence almost immediately. She believes students grow the most during this school year, and she enjoys helping her students learn to read. Though not all aspects of her influence may be recognized, Ford’s students do remember her and the impact she had on their lives. “One of the most rewarding things for me is when a fifth grader who is leaving…for middle school comes to thank me and tell me he will miss me,” she said. Ford has also had parents send letters thanking her for the influence she has had in their child’s life. All of these little notes help her to know that she does make a difference as a teacher. A student who comes through her classroom is always hers.
Photo Courtesy of Janece Ford.