If you haven’t met Mrs. Amanda Danson yet, you need to! Working a busy educator’s schedule, she was able to fit us in for a breakfast interview from Dunkin Donuts. Amanda went with a sausage, egg and cheese and OJ. This inspired me to step outside of the donut box and try the cherry wood smoked bacon, egg and cheese croissant. That breakfast sandwich changed my life…nom nom nom!
Rapid Fire With Amanda Danson
Adam: Where were you born at?
Amanda: I’m from Bristol, TN. Technically born in Johnson City.
Adam: What was your high school mascot?
Amanda: The Vikings
Adam: I’m a Norwegian, so that means a lot to me!
Adam: What college did you go to?
Amanda: Appalachian State University
Adam: Oh, Mountaineers! Did you do your bachelors there? Masters?
Amanda: Bachelors there.
Adam: What did you major in?
Amanda: Special Education
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Amanda: This is my second year teaching. I’ve only ever been here!
Adam: What subjects are you teaching this semester?
Amanda: I co-teach core academic classes, meaning I work closely with another general education teacher to provide extra support for students in academic classes. This year I am teaching Geometry and English II!
Adam: How many students do you usually have in a class?
Amanda: About 28-33
Adam: Are those inclusion classes?
Amanda: Yes they are inclusion classes, but co-taught. Some
students may have learning differences or other special needs, but some students won’t have any.
Adam: Do you think that is a successful model?
Amanda: I think in theory it’s a great model, but I think it’d work better with smaller class sizes.
Adam: What would be an ideal number?
Amanda: I think 15 or so.
Adam: If you don’t say it, a lot of people wouldn’t know it! I appreciate that.
Adam: What clubs do you sponsor?
Amanda: The Chess Club! Yes, it’s so much fun!
Adam: I love the idea of chess, and I just get killed by any one that knows what they are doing.
Amanda: Well I know how to play, I know the mechanics, but I’m not very good. And they are all REALLY REALLY good. They want to talk strategy and everything.
Adam: The next Bobby Fischer is here at Hardin Valley Academy!
Amanda: They are nationally ranked!
Amanda: We’re going to a tournament in a few weeks, and you have to type in their names to register them. There’s a place where you can put their USCF (United States Chess Federation) and you can input their ID number so they get points for the tournament.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Amanda: That’s a hard one to answer for me. I knew in high school that I loved working with kids with special needs. That’s pretty much always been a constant in my life and something I knew for sure about myself. After college I worked in respite care with kids with significant special needs- meaning they needed assistance with daily tasks, didn’t always communicate verbally, or were non-ambulatory. I thought that would be what I’d like to teach as well, and always pictured myself in that type of classroom. I felt comfortable there. I think I was just motivated by being with kids, and I LOVE high-schoolers. Obviously getting this job is just vastly different than what I was doing before, even though it is still special education. I still love teaching math, I love teaching English, but most of all I’m finding that I love high-schoolers. I love being in a high schooler’s life and learning more about them.
Adam: Absolutely! Although it was a little treacherous driving here this morning. All I saw was a bunch of high-schoolers. “Keep your eyes on the wheel, guys!”
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Amanda: I don’t know! I really didn’t think I would be teaching. After college, I knew I was going to do a year-long fellowship at an overnight respite care facility located right outside of DC. It was an awesome facility! I knew that wasn’t going to be long term, because that type of work is just so emotionally and physically demanding, but I honestly thought I might stay and still work with kids, at least for another year. Maybe take an office job or something behind the scenes to help run the facility. So maybe I would be doing that? I’m really interested in special education policy, so that might be something to visit one day.
Adam: Who is your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Amanda: Ms. Foutch. She wasn’t technically my teacher but she was my peer tutoring mentor. She was a Special Education teacher and one of the biggest reasons I’m a Special Ed teacher now. She actually now works in Knoxville, for UT in their Special Ed Department. I’d say she’s my favorite teacher from high school.
Adam: So this is your second year, which educator have you learned the most from?
Amanda: Also hard, there are so many that stick in my mind. To narrow it down to the Special Ed part, Dr. Kate Smith. She was my professor at App State. She works at UT now and lives in the Maryville area. She was definitely my favorite professor from college and clearly so passionate about Special Ed. I’m constantly still referring to things that she taught me and I find myself saying quotes that she said.
Adam: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Amanda: Professionally, I’m proud that that I have a college degree and got a job. I know I’m independent from my parents. I’m proud for making those strides. I am married! I’m proud of that!
Adam: How long have you been married?
Amanda: 3 months and 1 week. So not that long. *laughter*
Adam: Still got the glow! Those are two wonderful things to be proud of!
Adam: What would you consider a successful student to be?
Amanda: Also a good question, because the kids in my classes are very different than the kids in an AP class or in my chess club. I feel like all the kids I’ve met here are wired so differently. And I know that no one
ranks kids, but by default we do put a little value on academic excellence, but for me I have kids in class that have struggled with math from day one. They’ve heard all their life, “you aren’t getting it”, “you’re bad at math”, “you need to try harder” but I have some kids putting in a LOT of work. I just graded tests last night and can tell. They do the extra by coming to tutoring and asking the teachers questions and not letting the concept get them. Their grades improved so much just from the last test. It was so encouraging to see the resilience and perseverance that they had to do better. So what’s a successful student? I think that a student that can master skills is great, but I don’t care much about that. But I do think it’s incredibly important that you have the resilience to learn a new skill and keep pressing forward, and ask questions if you don’t understand something, because we still do that as adults. To be successful is to keep pushing.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see in public education?
Amanda: Still kind of new to public education,
well at least teaching in it, but I do find myself
sometimes seeing things I learned in college,
and how they don’t always transfer to real-life teaching how you would think. I remember being so excited about things I learned. Everything seemed so exciting on paper, especially with special ed. It’s hard to apply a model to real people. It really is hard. I think by and large we do a pretty good job. Kids are learning, but it is hard. I think the biggest thing for me would be reduced class size.
Adam: What is something that you could use in your classroom?
Amanda: Also, still new at this. But we switch classrooms here. So my first thought all the time is, “What can I take with me”? I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where I thought that I could do a lot better if I had this one thing. I wish every student had their own laptop.
Adam: Oh 1-to-1!
Amanda: Yes I wish. We have access to Chrome Books and to computers, but I wish they had their own. We had that when I was student teaching, and it was wonderful! I love that supplemental tool.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Amanda: I like to ride bikes, I love reading and my leisurely jogs.
Adam: What is a good way for a student or parent to spoil you?
Amanda: Starbucks gift card!
Adam: What’s your favorite kind of drink?
Amanda: Iced coffee!
We will send you the Hardin Valley Coupon Book.