- Francis Commey
Kim Arnold: Using passion to motivate engagement and respect
Kim Arnold of Dixie Middle School and Hurricane High School is focused on her students more than anything else once she steps into the classroom. “I care a lot about each and every student, “she said. “I’m prepared to teach a lot every day, have high expectations, and try to help them grow and mature.”
Kim Arnold got her start teaching when her 9th grade geometry teacher noticed she was excelling in the class and encouraged her to help her peers as an in class tutor. She had immediate success in the role and it kicked off her lifelong passion for teaching. “They would tell me how much they liked how I explained the concepts and how they wouldn’t have made it through Geometry without me,” Kim said. She would continue to excel throughout high school and seek out other opportunities to teach others, eventually becoming a math teacher herself.
Kim’s drive for excellence has carried over to create her love for professional development. Through it, she’s been able to have the opportunity to not only help students academically but also in social ways. Her involvement with the NBPTS (National Board of Professional Teaching Standards) is a reflection of her commitment to student learning. She said she loves how the recertification process allows her to reflect on her work and continue to evolve as an educator.
The teaching community is another source of inspiration for Kim. She enjoys sharing thoughts and gathering insights from different educators and using what they’ve learned elsewhere in her own classroom. “The comradery invigorates me year after year and keeps me always striving,” Kim said. “I love reading about strategy, learning about what works and what doesn’t work, identifying places for growth, and implementing ways to target needs.”
In combination with academic research on education, the skills Kim picks up from professional development help her reliably bring about positive academic and social results. “I use a cycle of concept development, modeling, guided practice, checking for understanding, re-teaching if necessary, and individual practice,” she said. “I test the students every 2-3 weeks using common assessments as my colleagues that target essential standards, then customize a remediation assignment for each student to relearn and remaster what they missed. It's rinse and repeat.”
As an educator, Kim can see why math might be the most challenging subject for students especially if there have been learning gaps in their prior experiences. This is why Kim pays special attention to identifying what students need to be successful. “I try to anticipate which prior skills they will need to be successful on the new material and make sure they have that down,” Kim said. Kim also knows that not every student understands concepts in the same way, so she relays math in different ways as well, sometimes visually or sometimes by drawing connections to everyday life.
The end result of her efforts is a classroom characterized by engagement and respect. In general, she acknowledges that teaching is challenging, emotional, and exhausting, but her passion, which is still with her, keeps her going. “What I would hope is my students would say about me is that they can tell I care, that they can feel me rooting for them and showing up for them every day, that even if they don't love math, they do enjoy being in my class.“
Photo courtesy of Kim Arnold