In this month’s Staff Spotlight, Fiona Danyko shares her experience as a first-year teacher at KIPP Indy. Fiona is a Teach For America corps member and is pursuing her Masters degree through Relay Graduate School of Education.

Tell us about yourself. What path led you to teaching 7th grade Math at KICP?

I always enjoyed working with kids and education in general, and started to realize towards the end of college that I wanted to be a teacher. I had spent a few years working with kids all over the world on dialogue programs, and also spent time teaching GRE classes to incarcerated students. I realized I wanted to become a teacher but also lacked some of the formal classroom experience many teachers have. KIPP Indy was a place I could teach while receiving additional training and supports through Teach For America and Relay Graduate School of Education.

Why did you decide to join KIPP Indy’s team?

I was impressed by the level of support KIPP Indy offers their students. Throughout my interview process, it was clear that KIPP Indy doesn’t just aspire to support students, they actively dedicate resources to offer that support. I wanted to work on a team that puts students first in that way.

What supports have you received as a first-year teacher?

The one-on-one coaching that KIPP Indy offers has been invaluable as a first-year teacher. I get feedback every week on my strengths and areas of improvement, which means I am continuously implementing new instructional strategies in the classroom. As a first-year teacher this is extremely helpful.

You are part of a team-teaching duo. How has being a team teacher supported your professional development?

My team teacher has a decade of experience in the classroom and I am thankful for his insight and creative ideas. We partner together to decide how we deliver content and determine ways to support students who might be struggling with math content at home.

It goes without saying that this year has been one of constant changes. What core values have you seen your team demonstrate throughout this school year?

The team I work with has been incredibly resilient and innovative. Teachers are constantly sharing new strategies and tech ideas with one another. We share what does and doesn’t work, and are able to find new ways to reach our students together. I have learned about so many online teaching strategies, websites, and tools from the educators on my team who take the time to share their wins to make us all better.

What advice would you give to teachers as they transition back to E-Learning?

Remember that kids are often feeling the same way you are, and lean into it. The screen fatigue, the frustration, the loneliness, the students are all experiencing the same thing. Try to find ways to acknowledge that and change what makes it hard for all of us instead of pretending those problems don’t exist and simply “pushing through.”