My name is Danielle Miksch and I work for the Warren Hills Regional School District in Washington, NJ. I have just started my 22nd year of teaching and I have been a Special Education teacher in the District. During the current school year, I am in the subject area of Math where I am a support teacher for the regular education classroom. I am also teaching students in a smaller classroom setting at a more individualized pace. Over my career, I have been placed in a variety of different classroom settings and subject areas. I have been a support teacher in a regular education classroom, a lead teacher in a class for multiple disabilities, a Learning Disabilities teacher for core content classes, and provided reading and writing support in a lab for students who struggled based on standardized testing and teacher observations.
Reflecting on why I wanted to be a teacher has come down to simply wanting to help others and make a difference. Initially, I wanted to be an elementary teacher, but the more jobs that I applied for came back as needing Special Education. When I was hired for a High School placement, I Initially thought, give it a try and get my feet wet, and now look at me. Twenty-two years later time has flown by. I can look back proud of the connections I have made with my students and proud of their accomplishments.
In regards to who made me want to become a teacher, it comes down to the people who made learning fun and challenged me to be more and not settle for less. People like my fourth-grade teacher who would provide tools to motivate the class and make us work through positive reinforcement. My sixth-grade teacher, who used to yell at the top of his lungs, “The test has begun…do you know what that means?!?!?” My German teacher despite getting a “C” on a report card would relate that to a B because you had to work to learn a new language and because of that attitude and drive it led me to still remember a chunk of the language to this day. Finally, a man whom I met before going to college inspired me to keep pushing and to still want that dream of receiving my doctorate. He was a friend, an inspiration, that I still hold dear to me because he pushed me in the direction to get dual certification as an undergraduate in Elementary and Special Education. He was the one who said even though we are friends outside of class, I will not treat you any differently as a student. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Simple as these people and/or moments may seem, these words and morals have stuck with me to this day.
My teaching philosophy has always been that I will treat you the way you want to be treated. I will work with you if you are willing to meet me halfway in wanting to better yourself. My door has always been open for my students regardless of what I had going on in my day. Students would use my room as a safe place whether it was to save themselves from making poor decisions, or just wanting to talk about their days, and it provided a sense of security for some that may not always have it outside of the school day. Being there for my students wasn’t just a 9-5 kind of thing. I tried to support them by going to events they were in, showing up at a job, and just being a friendly ear when they needed to get something off their mind. When COVID hit, I was working outside of school hours to help my students graduate and work on assignments because they may have had to help the family during school and talk with parents. I realize not everyone goes that extra mile, but I will do my best to help my students be the best they can be. This year, I have the opportunity to attend one of my students’ weddings and I still keep in contact with former students and occasionally even help them once they graduate. No matter their situation, disability, or outcome…every student has the right to learn and succeed.
In today’s age, you can’t get away from technology, you are using it to post grades, Google Classroom, emails, social media, and more. Each school year, the district will always try to provide us with new ways to implement different types of technology into our classrooms. Not all will work for everyone, but I do enjoy exploring and seeing what is out there to best reach the variety of learning styles that are in my classroom.
If a student was going to go into the area of Science, I would not discourage them but inform them to research and make sure it is something they love and enjoy because that is key. If you are not passionate about something then you should not pursue it.