Tate Swensen

Henry’s Fork Elementary teacher Tate Swensen.

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Tate Swensen.

What school do you teach at?

Henry’s Fork Elementary in Fremont School District 215.

What department are you with and what classes do you teach?

Third grade general education and science.

How long have you been teaching in general? At the school you are at now?

10 years, this is my fifth year at my school.

What made you decide to be a teacher?

Both my parents were teachers and I witnessed the life long impact they had on individuals. I also had some amazing high school teachers that inspired me and challenged me to better myself. I wanted a career that I could make a difference in individual lives.

What do you enjoy about being a teacher?

My favorite part of teaching is what I call the light bulb moment. When I am teaching something that is really challenging the students and they start to understand there is a look on their face that tells me they are beginning to get it. Then that look turns to excitement when they realize they understand. That is the light bulb moment. That is the best feeling in the world as a teacher.

What are some challenges?

It is heartbreaking to see how many kids at a younger and younger age battle with anxiety. Helping students develop confidence while dealing with anxiety is a tough challenge.

What is an experience you have had as a teacher that stands out to you?

Early in my teaching career we had a student pass away at school. Two of my colleagues began CPR as I gathered students and took them upstairs to my classroom to help clear the area. I saw the effect this had on these two great men that did everything they could to save that student’s life. From this point forward I tried to look for students well-being first and their education second.

Why did you decide to teach at the school you are currently at?

I decided to teach closer to home to save time on my commute and make it easier for me to attend my own children’s activities. I was actually hoping to teach at another school in the district but I ended up here. I know this was the right place for me at this time. My school has treated me extremely well and given me many opportunities to grow and excel as a teacher. They also encourage me to attend technology conferences which is a passion for me as a teacher. Most importantly I am surrounded by amazing colleagues that inspire me to be not only a better teacher but a better person. This is where I was meant to be.

What is something interesting about you most of your students don’t know?

I get so nervous when I have to talk in front of people. Everyday when I get in front of my class I am nervous.

What are some things that are different in the education system now compared to when you first started teaching/when you were a student?

I think the biggest thing is math. We have all heard about this new math or this common core math. I think there is a big misunderstanding. Common core is not a type of math but a set of standards of what as student should learn in a given year, like multiplication and division. When I was a student, we basically were taught the shortcut. What I am trying to teach students now is to understand the numbers and value. Teaching the students what is really going on when we add subtract, multiply and divide. While I was basically taught the algorithm and memorized my multiplication facts I am teaching kids how to break down numbers into simpler problems they can solve. This helps students be able to multiply and subtract large numbers in their head without a piece of paper. The students get so excited when they can solve large math problems with out a scratch piece of paper. In the beginning it is a longer process but once they understand the numbers then when I teach them the shortcut they often are able to make these computations in their head.