Ziena Walker is a second-grade teacher at Southside Ashpole Elementary, part of Innovative School District, in Rowland, North Carolina. She was introduced to the position by UI – PCG Education’s EdForce™ team. EdForce helps solve the nationwide teacher shortage, enabling school districts to place experienced teachers and instructional staff quickly, filling critical vacancies. She has been an instructor for the past four months and feels each day is an opportunity to make a difference while helping to pave the educational pathway for children.
At the age of fifty-four, Ziena was inspired to go back to college after becoming a foster mom to a four-year-old boy. He had been neglected and one area where he struggled was in understanding fundamentals such as reciting his ABC’s and counting numbers. Ziena decided to attend school so she could earn a degree and help other children like him. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Development from Kaplan University and started her career at an Early Head Start program for two years. When the grant for Head Start ended, the burning passion to teach guided her job search for the next opportunity.
The EdForce team came across Ziena’s resume online and reached out, asking if she would like to interview for a teaching position. Grateful and honored by the opportunity, she accepted the interview, and passed with flying colors, to become a second-grade teacher in North Carolina.
Happy to be prepared for the classroom, the EdForce team provided assistance with her Praxis test and assisted in professional development. Her instructional coach, Haley Morris, set goals for Ziena each week and provided resources and follow-ups to ensure that she was understanding and retaining the information. Especially since Ziena is a first-year teacher, Haley wanted to provide over and above mentoring. Ziena says she was thankful to have an instructional coach available to answer the many questions a first-year teacher has. Haley also advised Ziena to provide small groups in both reading and mathematics, which has helped allow her to spend time with each student on their own level.
“Haley gave me fantastic information for my own testing and then began to provide a coaching program to help mentor me during my first year,” Ziena states. “She has been a tremendous coach, pushing me to be the best and making each day count. Being an instructor for EdForce has allowed me to fulfill my dream to teach,” Ziena continues. “Because of EdForce, I have an opportunity to make the magic of education happen. Overall, my favorite part of being an EdForce instructor is helping young children learn to read.”
Ziena follows her school’s curriculum with fidelity but also enjoys thinking outside the box to help students achieve their love of reading. The first time one of her students read his first paragraph, there was a celebration in the classroom. She says, “Being a witness to the ‘lightbulb’ when it comes on for a young reader is like finding the end of the rainbow.”
“If I can teach a child to read, he or she can grow up to do anything their heart desires! My favorite part of my day is letting my students know that I care about them, their education is important to me, and that they are the best class ever. I want what is best for them every day. Once my students understand the love I have for them, then they can begin the journey of reading. It is also important for children to learn how to think outside of the box. Discovering their creative side is a joy,” Ziena notes.
Ziena feels it is important to take time to know each child individually, wanting students to know that their education is important today, tomorrow, and forever. “Teaching children is not just about literature and mathematics, it is about life and morals and how we treat each other,” says Ziena.