Much more than helping hands in the classrooms, associate teachers at Jacksonville Country Day School (JCDS) add value to the student experience in many ways. Associates can be an emotional support system for students who encourage good character at recess and lunch. Associate teachers make the lead homeroom teacher more effective and the environment more positive. They connect with the specialists and ensure that the education experience at JCDS is seamless.
According to head of school Pat Walker, “"Having a second teacher in our classrooms enhances the program by allowing more individual time with students. Two classroom teachers give students the opportunity to connect with two caring adults on a regular basis, further giving them the sense of emotional safety."
Some associate teachers, like 5th grade associate Lindsey Dunn, are just starting out on their teaching journeys. Others are winding down their careers after being lead teachers themselves. Some have life commitments that prevent them from working full-time in the field that they love. They all have one thing in common: a nurturing spirit.
First grade associate teacher Lee Johns is a caring and enthusiastic educator. She develops relationships and works closely with the students. She is always helping students with strategies to improve their academic work, organizational skills, ability to solve problems, and creativity. When she is proud of something a child has achieved, she is the first to celebrate with that student.
Mrs. Johns is not afraid to have fun either. You might have seen her running around campus in her pink wig on Pink Out day.
Third grade associate Teresa Gore said her goal is to make a difference in a child’s life every single day. “You’ve got to love what you do and the relationships. That’s the driving force.”
Mrs. Gore is one of the leaders of Shark Academy, which trains new teachers in the JCDS way. She has also has helped implement a conflict resolution strategy in 3rd and 4th grades this year. Mrs. Gore, a former Disneyworld employee, “makes everyone happy who sees her” director of education Ruthanne Stabler said.
Third grade associate Sharon Jones is “a master teacher,” according to Mrs. Stabler, “who teaches students critical thinking skills.” She also engages in one-to-one student conferences on topics such as metacognition and literary analysis.
In the upper grades at JCDS, associate teachers are particularly adept at guiding students as they transition from being children to teenagers. Mrs. Murphy describes a recent 6th grade fall learning adventure to Camp Montgomery: “We had just spent the last two days at Camp Montgomery watching the 6th graders get frustrated, collaborate, problem solve, agree to disagree, and at times even give up. It's so hard to stand back and just watch when you know you have the solution, but that's what we do. We let them figure it out.“
It is hard to envision what the JCDS campus would be like without its beloved associate teachers, all of who couldn’t be mentioned in this article. As Mrs. Murphy says, “We do whatever we feel best to ensure their child succeeds at JCDS and beyond.”