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  • Joseph Coleman

Erna Woods: Every Child has the Ability to Learn and Improve

Erna Woods of Kirtland Elementary says that teaching was the furthest thing from her mind throughout high school and college. However, once she had children, her thoughts on the matter changed. It didn’t hurt that her father, mother, and sister were all educators! Seeing the impact her family members had on their students, she felt called to teaching.

Erna Woods saw several family members change the lives of their students. Even after the fact, students would come to her family members and say how impactful their teaching and coaching presence was when during their school years. Now, with a classroom of her own, she holds the fundamental belief that any child that walks into her classroom can learn the material in front of them. “They shouldn’t be turned away, regardless of if they have an IEP or whatever anyone labels them as. Everyone has the ability to make improvements,” says Erna.

Erna focuses on building base-level relations with her students before she gets into which teaching strategies she uses. Once she knows her students’ learning styles, she adapts her classroom to best fit the needs of her students. “Learning about them first, [I] figure out the strategies that work with them,” Erna explains.

On day one, there’s plenty of structure in Erna’s classroom. Once the year starts to go on and her students learn the boundaries and expectations, she slowly allows them more and more freedom. “I think it’s a lot of fun, and hopefully they say it’s a lot of fun,” Erna says with a laugh. Slowly walking back the structure allows her students to both understand the expectations of the classroom and express themselves in a healthy way conducive to learning.

Erna stays active on social media, following teachers throughout the country to constantly stay up to date on what other teachers are doing. “Every day I’m looking at things, and I talk to my grade level, saying ‘did you see this?’ We motivate and encourage each other to step up our game,” says Erna. Along with this, Erna has started on her master’s degree to learn more and help her students.

Erna is a member of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and focuses on making her classroom more equitable and accessible to all her students. Through active engagement with her students and a pursuit of continuing education, Erna constantly strives to improve her classroom year in and year out.

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