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Hatling leads by example
Fifth-grade math and social studies teacher Julie Hatling was just one of a handful of teachers from the Belle Fourche School District that recently achieved National Board Certification. Currently, Belle Fourche is behind only the state’s largest district, Sioux Falls, for employing the highest number of National Board Certified teachers – a pretty impressive feat considering Belle Fourche’s small size.
Perhaps that’s why Hatling is so quick to offer praise to the other teachers who also achieved National Board Certification – and those who helped her accomplish the goals she set for herself.
“I am constantly amazed at how people who are part of this profession are always striving to improve. Teachers are able to take a classroom of many students who are at many different levels of understanding, and they are able to move every child forward,” Hatling said. “They take classes, attend workshops, pursue degrees, and lead within their buildings. The teaching profession is a special place to be, and I am proud to be part of this community of people who are continually committed to learning.”
Those are sentiments that Hatling tries to model for her students. As part of her math workshop, Hatling’s students play many games that allow them to practice a skill independently or work together to try to out-strategize another team, to practice the skill of mental math and estimation. Hatling enjoys watching their thinking develop to the point where they can think about their next move and then be able to explain what they did. Plus, she says, the time goes by so fast, and the kids love it!
“I wanted to be a teacher because I believe that all kids can learn, and I wanted to be a part of that. I believe that it is important for me to model the behaviors that I want to see from my students. This often involves questioning their thinking and facilitating meaningful discussions,” Hatling said. “One of my most rewarding experiences as a teacher comes when my students acquire the skills necessary to be in charge of their own learning. I enjoy reaching a point when my students answer their own questions, ask questions of one another, and have very high expectations for themselves as learners.”
She also let the students share in her goals, and made them feel like they were a crucial part of the process.
“I talk a lot with my students about meeting goals and setting targets for themselves along the way. Achieving National Board Certification was a goal that I set for myself. I knew that I was going to do whatever it took to meet that goal,” she said. “My students knew that I was working hard toward a goal, and I think that modeling that determination transfers to them and their learning. This process took many hours outside of the classroom that I spent writing and reviewing my writing. It was a huge commitment that impacted my students and my family. I am grateful for all of the support that I received throughout the process. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
Achieving National Board Certification has helped Hatling be even more aware and reflective regarding her teaching strategies and methods.
“Going through this process has greatly increased my awareness of how I teach. The focus throughout was to reflect on how my teaching was impacting individual student achievement,” Hatling said. “Now, when I plan a lesson, I don’t think of what content I need to be teaching, I think of what I want my students to know and be able to do as a result of each lesson. It really is a shift in thinking about what my job entails, to who my job impacts.”