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Navigating 5th Grade: Sonya Pake on Preparing Students for Middle School at Explorer Elementary

The Hornet Hive Podcast

Release Date: 04/04/2024

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More Episodes

In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, host Dr. Christopher Lewis sat down with Sonya Pake, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School in the Williamston Community Schools district. The conversation provided a unique insight into the experiences and perspectives of a teacher working in a small, close-knit community. From discussing the transition from elementary to middle school to the support and pride of living and working in the same community, Sonya's insights shed light on the multifaceted role that teachers play in shaping students' lives and the community at large.

The Importance of the Transition to Middle School

As a 5th-grade teacher, Sonya highlighted the pivotal role she plays in preparing her students for the transition to middle school. She emphasized the significance of fostering independence and responsibility in her students. Sonya discussed the importance of organizational skills and preparing students for the shift from a single classroom setting to moving between different classes in middle school. Her dedication to ensuring a seamless transition for her students reflects the depth of care and commitment that educators bring to their roles beyond classroom learning.

The Joy of Teaching 5th Graders

Sonya's passion for teaching 5th graders shone through as she described the unique attributes of this age group. She emphasized their curiosity, inquisitiveness, and their enthusiasm for learning. She noted that 5th graders are at a stage where they still love school and are receptive to learning. Her joy in teaching this age group was evident as she shared anecdotes about the humor and thought-provoking questions that her students bring to the classroom. Sonya's dedication to fostering a love for learning in her students underlines the transformative impact that educators can have during a critical stage in a child’s educational journey.

The Supportive Community

 One of the standout aspects of Sonya's experience was the unwavering support she received from her colleagues and the broader community during challenging times. Her account of the overwhelming support she received from staff members and parents amidst health-related challenges reflects the strong sense of community within the Williamston district. By highlighting the support she received, Sonya showcased the invaluable network of support that educators receive and the impact it has on their well-being and their ability to continue positively impacting students' lives.

The Pride of Living and Working in the Same Community

 Sonya touched on the unique pride that comes with living and working in the same community where she teaches. She emphasized the difference in the sense of pride and connection when one is an integral part of the community they serve. This insight into the impact of teaching in one’s own community sheds light on the deeper personal investment and accountability that educators feel toward their students and the community at large. Sonya's experience highlights the profound impact of this dual role and the profound sense of community that it fosters.

Conclusion

Sonya Pake's conversation with Dr. Christopher Lewis provided a remarkable glimpse into the multifaceted experiences of educators in a close-knit community. From the pivotal role in guiding students through educational transitions to the unwavering support from colleagues and the pride of being an integral part of the community, Sonya's perspective showcased the depth of dedication and care that educators bring to their roles. Her insights shed light on the profound impact that teachers have in shaping students' lives and the community at large, underscoring the invaluable contributions of educators in creating supportive, nurturing learning environments.

In essence, the conversation with Sonya Pake highlighted the countless ways in which educators go above and beyond to nurture and guide the next generation. It emphasized the pivotal role teachers play in fostering independence, academic growth, and a sense of community among their students. As we celebrate and appreciate educators like Sonya, we recognize the immeasurable impact they have on the lives of their students and the wider community.

TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]:
Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. I love being able to sit down with you every week to talk about the amazing things that are happening in our schools, talk about the people And the opportunities that are available to our students because I know not all of you have kids in the district, and that's important. It's important for All of our community members to know more about our schools, know more about the people that are connecting with our students on a daily basis. That's why every week I love being able to talk to you because I know your experience is different than your neighbors', and it's important to be able to have that insider look. I also love being able to bring you different people, different staff, and different individuals that are impacting our schools in so many different ways. This week, we've got another great guest with us.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:14]:
Sonya Paik is with us today. Sonya is a 5th grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School, And she's been with the district now for a little bit of time, and we're gonna be getting to know her a little bit better. I'm really excited to have her on and to introduce her to you. Sonya, thanks so much for being here today.

Sonya Pake [00:01:29]:
Yes. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:30]:
It is my pleasure. Really appreciate you being here today. One of the things that I love To do, 1st and foremost, is turn the clock back in time. Talk to me about what brought you originally to Williamston.

Sonya Pake [00:01:41]:
I've lived in Williamston for 10 years. We moved here when my daughter was In 1st grade and I always was impressed with how everyone at the schools handled themselves, what came home and her Friday folders, things like that. And the district that I was in, I was content at the time. But as I got older and my daughter got older, I started to think more about some of those Great things that I used to see coming home and things that we experienced on the parent side. And so then when there were positions available I wanted to come. I feel like this is where I should be. This is where I live. This is where my daughter goes to school.

Sonya Pake [00:02:17]:
And so I feel like it was a natural fit for me to come here to teach.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:21]:
Now I said that you are a 5th grade teacher, and you play a pivotal role in preparing those students to move from Elementary school to middle school, important time. You also get involved in that 5th grade camp, which your kids always love, and I I'm sure that it you're Excited when it's done because it's a very, taxing period for 5th grade teachers as well. Talk to me about 5th grade and what you love most about teaching in 5th grade and why 5th grade.

Sonya Pake [00:02:49]:
Prepaiders are great. They still like school. They still like their teachers. They still like learning. They're Very inquisitive little people. And so for them, it's easier for me, I feel like, to do my job because they are really happy to be here. 5th grade being pivotal in that transition, we work a lot to get them ready to be more independent and be more Responsible for themselves and for what they need to do. But we also still try to give them some of those things that they may not be getting in middle school next year.

Sonya Pake [00:03:20]:
So it's Kind of a balance of working on making sure they get both things. But I love 5th graders. They make me laugh every day. Their humor is amazing. The questions they come up with to ask during science and social studies blow my mind. They're just very curious And it's just wonderful. I don't know how many times I've had to consult Google or books to answer some of the inquisitiveness their questions.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:44]:
Now as you think about that transition from 5th grade to middle school, you talk about that as a 5th grade teacher, You and the rest of the team are doing everything you can to prepare them for that next step. And not everyone has kids in the district and may not know what that means. So what does that mean for you as a 5th grade teacher? What are you doing as a teacher to help those kids to make that transition in a seamless fashion.

Sonya Pake [00:04:10]:
Well, obviously, 5th grade's different. They do everything in 1 classroom, and then when they go to middle school, they have Travel from class to class and so really working on organization of their things. They have a lot of things. So making sure that they know where things are. Trying to help them develop systems for how best to store their items, their work, their books, Things like that. But also responsibility is the big piece, is making sure that they know that they need to be responsible. It's not Mom's job or the teacher's job or dad's job. It's their job to make sure their work gets done and turned in.

Sonya Pake [00:04:44]:
And so they need to be the ones that are Responsible. Those are the 2 biggest ones, organization and responsibility. Socially, I think they're all ready, but those are the 2 big things that we really, really work on.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:57]:
I appreciate you sharing that. Now you've been with the district now for a number of years. And every day, I know with teachers, there are things that Are positive. There's things that are negative. There's things that you look to that sustains you in the work that you do. What would you say has sustained you In your years in our district, and what makes Williamston a great place to work?

Sonya Pake [00:05:18]:
The biggest one for me is the people I get to work with. The rest of the 5th grade team is amazing. The building are amazing. The office people are amazing. So being able to come to work and know that you're fully supported by who you're with every day makes the day better just before it even starts. And then the other part is the students. I really truly work really hard to build Good, positive, strong relationships with my students. To know them not just as students, but as people outside the classroom, You know, about their home lives and what sports they play and giving your game schedule and things like that.

Sonya Pake [00:05:53]:
It's just really, really nice how involved a teacher can be In the community where they teach for sporting events and extracurriculars and things like that with the kids.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:06:03]:
Yeah. I know you mentioned that one of reasons that you came to Williamston was the fact that you lived in the community, your daughter was in the community, and You made that transition. Talk to me about the difference that you found, whether it was right away or over time that you found in Living and working in the same community where you're teaching versus working outside and Coming back to a community.

Sonya Pake [00:06:31]:
It's different because before I worked in Williamston, I could go into town and nobody noticed me. And now I go into town and I always see somebody that I know. So there's that. But I think it's a different Kind of pride you wear when you work in the district where you live and you teach the kids that live in your neighborhood. So it's just a different kind of Pride that you have in what you do, but also in your home and, you know, your neighborhood and things like that. Because you are an integral part of that Community as a member, whether I think if you're working in a community and you live in the community, it doesn't matter if you're a teacher or anything else you do. I think you just carry a different pride about yourself when you kinda do both of those things in the same place versus Working somewhere and then you go home to somewhere else and you don't really have that community relationship as much. Because you just go to the building and then you come back.

Sonya Pake [00:07:28]:
Working and living is different. You have that different sense of pride and lack of privacy.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:34]:
Definitely know what that's like In sitting on the school board, it's the same type of situation where you can be in anonymity, but then you can also be known by many that you may not know. So so definitely understand that. I've talked to many staff members that say the same where they walk into the D and Ws or they walk into other places, and then all the students come and talk to them and or the parents come and talk and so that anonymity goes away. So completely understand. Now Every teacher that I talk to, you're storytellers. You have stories. There are stories that sustain you as we just talked about on a daily basis. There's Stories that touch your hearts.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:14]:
There's stories that are more challenging, and they are a part of who you are and become a part of who you are. Can you a story with me that for you epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamson staff member?

Sonya Pake [00:08:27]:
So I've had some challenges this year health related, and The support that I have received not just from staff members who know what's going on, But even just from parents, just by saying like, I have some health things going on. I need your support of your kids when they know I'm not going to be there. Things like that. I'm blown away By the support, the offerings of help or thoughts or, you know, things like that, I just It's something that I will always remember going through issues, but just to feel so supported, it's just amazing. It makes every day just a little bit easier to know that you have so many people in a community that you can lean on and turn to. And so for me, that will be a part of my story from here out, continuing in Williamston. You know, I won't forget How supported I felt and how loved and welcomed and appreciated I felt in a more difficult time.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:26]:
And I think that's one of the things that is great about a small community that When I'll use the adage. When the going gets tough, people come together. Right? And and it's true that people do surround and Come out in droves to support people that really need it in our community. And I've seen that not only for you, but for Some of the other staff that are having some challenges this year, and it has been a positive experience in regards to Seeing that support and allowing for you as staff members to have that support that you need, and I'm glad that we've been able to have that support for you in this journey that you're on.

Sonya Pake [00:10:07]:
It's been wonderful.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:09]:
Well, I truly appreciate everything that you do to help our kids to make that transition, to do all that you have To do to be able to be that advocate for our students. And I appreciate all that you've shared today, and I wish you all the best.

Sonya Pake [00:10:23]:
Thank you so much.