Meet Spring Hill Elementary Teacher of the Year
Colleen Fail; 3rd Grade
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I can tell you the exact place I was when I realized that elementary education and being a teacher was the path I needed to be on. It made sense because I have always loved learning. School was always a happy place for me as a child. I almost seconded-guessed myself though because I remembered days when learning got very challenging. I remembered feeling that I would never get it despite all the effort I was putting in. Then, it was almost as though a light switched on and I could picture the teachers that were there for me to help me through those moments. They still hold a special place in my heart. My inspiration for becoming a teacher was the challenging moments and knowing that I wanted to help students through them by building trusting relationships and instilling in them that they can do it. Learning new things can be hard, but having someone in your court every step of the way can change your mindset from an “I can’t do this,” to an “I will be able to do this.”
Where are you from and what is your educational background/experience?
I was born in Ohio, moved to Maine in elementary school, and moved down to Pinellas County, Florida as a sophomore in high school. I went to the University of Florida (Go Gators!) for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I began my teaching career in Citrus County where I taught for six years before moving to Hernando. I’ve taught here for five years, and have been at Spring Hill Elementary for four years. I love being a SHES panther! I have taught both fifth grade and third grade.
What is your most memorable moment as a teacher?
I set out on a mission each school year to have my students fall in love with reading. There are usually some groans in the beginning when I tell my new class that they will become wild
readers. I’ve even had students tell me that they only read because they have to and not because they enjoy it. My most memorable moment has to do with falling in love with reading. I can vividly remember all my students on the edge of their seats as I finished a novel. In those last few chapters, I watched my students experience every emotion you can imagine from sadness all the way to joy. When I closed the book, they sat in silence and stared at me with a look of wonder in their eyes. I said the first thing that came to my mind, I told them it had a sequel. Every single student in the classroom started cheering and asked when we could start it. I told them it didn’t come out for another month. They begged me to preorder it and to not read it before I could read it with them as it came out over spring break that year. They couldn’t wait to know what would happen next for our main character. This moment was so memorable to me because it was a turning point for many students that day. They saw reading as more than just something they had to do, it became something they could be passionate about, go on adventures with, learn about the world with, or just spend time enjoying. One of my goals is to relive that memorable moment each year with every new class. I love when students truly find joy in something.
What is a challenge that you’ve faced as a teacher and how did you solve it?
I can remember the last few minutes before dismissal on March 12, 2020. Students were saying goodbye to each other, giving hugs, and saying things like, “See you in a week! Have a great Spring Break!” Then, we got word over Spring Break we wouldn’t be returning to school in person which then became the rest of our school year together. Teachers had a challenge to navigate the new waters of digital learning and still maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. This was a challenge I did not foresee happening that school year and it was a complete shift in teaching. I vowed to make sure that my students still had a wonderful experience for the rest of their school year. I scheduled live teaching sessions as well as fun weekly live sessions for us to continue building relationships and feel the joy of learning, I even invited special teachers to join us. The biggest piece to solving this challenge though was working together with my third-grade team to create engaging lessons, fun activities, and great experiences for our third graders. Solving this challenge as a team was an essential part of our success with distance learning and for our students. I love that we were able to lean on each other and make something that started as a challenge into something successful.
And Congratulations to Brianna Maier, Spring Hill Elementary School-Related Employee of the Year!
Thank you to Skintastic Med Spa for sponsoring Ms. Fail's classroom! Ms. Fail will receive $100 for classroom supplies thanks to Skintastic Med Spa!
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