Donna Pierce begins her 26th year teaching when she starts another year teaching math and science to sixth graders at Summit Middle School this fall.
“I taught elementary for 12 or 13 years before I made the shift to middle school, and I will probably never go anywhere else,” she says. “With 6th grade, they’re funny, more independent, and they’re a different type of student. I enjoy that age of those kids.”
She says she knows that it can be a challenging year coming into one school after being in the different elementary schools, and they’re trying to find their place. But that’s what Pierce enjoys about it.
“I like to help them get through that and help them in the decisions they make,” she says. “You can really help them shape their lives and decide what path to go down. We teach independence and being responsible for your actions and your learning, and we try to get them to understand that.
In Pierce’s classroom, kids are able to do a lot of hands-on work. Her brother owns a meat locker, and so she brings in a heart and lungs and other organs from cows and pigs for students to study. Pigs organs are similar to humans as far as size, and students can learn more about lungs by doing experiments like blowing into them with a tube to inflate them.
They also build mouse trap boats – boats that are propelled by a mouse trap. They build their own, and then there is a big contest.
“Those things that we have to capture as teachers because that’s what kids walk away remembering,” she says. “They will forget what I said, but they will remember hands-on activities. I have kids from high school who come back and ask if we still do the boats.”
When it comes to her teaching philosophy, she says it’s important to meet students where they are and to remember that they’re kids. And most importantly, that she cares.
“If they have issues or things they want to share, I will listen and be there,” she says. “I want them to have fun and learn and be successful, but they’re still kids. We want them to grow up too much too fast. They’re only 11 or 12 years old. They have a lot on their minds.”
Another thing that guides her teaching is her ability to have fun in the classroom and relate to students. She says she is constantly asking herself, ‘If I were a student, would I want to be in this classroom?”
“My love for teaching shows in the classroom,” she says. “I want them to walk away and say, ‘She loves what she does.’ I love to go to work everyday. I love teaching.