Herald Head of the Class 2021: Lynda Last, Hebrew Academy of Nassau County 4th Grade

On the power of positivity

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Lynda Last of the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County talks about the importance of mindfulness and positivity in the classroom.

Why did you become a teacher?
I was inspired to become a teacher by a few of my teachers who believed in me and helped me to succeed. Knowing how good they made me feel, I wanted to help other students feel the same.

Tell us about a teacher that inspired you as a student.
I had many great teachers that really inspired me to become a teacher. Even though I struggled in school they never gave up on me and constantly encouraged me to do my best. I would call out 2 specifics: My third grade teacher was instrumental in getting me “out of my shell” and my high school business teacher encouraged me to try new things and go “out” of my comfort zone.

What did you experience or learn about teaching—yourself, your students, the process, etc.—during the pandemic that you think you will carry forward?
I tried many new things during the pandemic to make my students excited and interested in learning. Every Friday we had a mystery zoom where a parent or grandparent would “pop” into our classroom and play a game or teach the class something. We also visited classes from different states, each class taking turns asking yes or no questions to try to figure out which state the other class was from.

What’s the most memorable thing a student has said to you?
You make learning really fun and exciting.

What has been your toughest challenge as a teacher so far?
When we had to be on zoom teaching online. The lack of wifi in many areas and getting the students to remain engaged and focused during the lessons

What has been your proudest moment as a teacher so far?
When a student who is struggling with a concept has that “Aha” moment and finally gets it.

What surprised you the most when you first started teaching?
All of the paperwork that needs to be done.

How do you keep students engaged and interested?
Mindfulness, enrichment using technology in many ways including pixel art, coding and working collaboratively on projects.

What is an aspect of being a teacher that you think most people outside the profession don’t know or fully understand?
It encompasses so many extra hours beyond the actual school day. There is prep work, contacting parents and professional development that doubles the working hours.

What advice do you have for aspiring teachers?
Make your classroom a positive place for everyone and the learning will happen. Your students will learn better when everyone has a positive attitude, and is happy.

What is the most important thing you hope a student takes away from your class?
To be present in the moment and the power of the pause. Slow down because you always do better when you take your time.

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