Ziena Walker is a second grade teacher at Southside Ashpole Elementary, part of Innovative School District, in Rowland, North Carolina. She was introduced to the position by UI – PCG Education’s EdForce team, helping to solve the nationwide teacher shortage. As an EdForce instructor for four months, she feels each day is an opportunity to make a difference to help pave the educational pathway for children.
At the age of fifty-four, Ziena was inspired to go back to college after becoming a foster mom to a four-year-old boy. He was neglected growing up and could not yet recite his ABC’s or count numbers. Ziena decided to attend school so she could earn a degree and help other children like him. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Development from Kaplan University and started her career at an Early Head Start program for two years. When the grant for Head Start ended, the burning passion to teach guided her job search for the next opportunity.
The EdForce team came across Ziena’s resume online and reached out, asking if she would like to interview for a teaching position. Grateful and honored by the opportunity, she accepted the interview, and passed with flying colors, to become a second grade teacher in North Carolina.
Happy to be prepared for the classroom, the EdForce team provided assistance with her Praxis test and provided professional development that pushed Ziena to study information that will help her become a great teacher. Her instructional coach, Haley Morris, set goals for Ziena each week and provided resources and follow ups to ensure that she was understanding and retaining the information. Especially since Ziena is a first year teacher, Haley wanted to provide over and above mentoring. Ziena says she was thankful to have an instructional coach available to answer the many questions a first year teacher will often have. Haley also advised Ziena to provide small groups in both reading and mathematics, which has helped allow her to spend time with each student on their own level.
“Haley gave me fantastic information for my own testing and then began to provide a coaching program to help mentor me during my first year,” Ziena states. “She has been a tremendous coach, pushing me to be the best and making each day count. Being an instructor for EdForce has allowed me to fulfill my dream to teach,” Ziena continues. “Because of EdForce, I have an opportunity to make the magic of education happen. Overall, my favorite part of being an EdForce instructor is helping young children to read.”
Ziena follows her school’s curriculum with fidelity, but also enjoys thinking outside the box to help students achieve their love of reading. The first time one of her students read his first paragraph, there was a celebration in the classroom. She took pictures of the story he read, sent it to family members, and rejoiced with the family in his successes. She says, “Being a witness to the ‘lightbulb’ when it comes on for a young reader is like finding the end of the rainbow.”
“If I can teach a child to read, he or she can grow up to do anything their heart desires! My favorite part of my day is letting my students know that I care about them, their education is important to me, and that they are the best class ever,” Ziena notes.
Ziena thoroughly enjoys teaching children, taking time to know each child as an individual. She believes education is the most important artifact a child can hold, as long as they are willing to learn.
“Students should learn that their teacher is for them! I want what is best for them every day. Once my students understand the love I have for them, then they can begin the journey of reading. It is also important for children to learn how to think outside of the box. Discovering their creative side is a joy.”
Ziena feels it is important to take time to know each child individually, wanting students to know that their education is important today, tomorrow, and forever.
“Teaching children is not just about literature and mathematics, it is about life and morals and how we treat each other,” says Ziena.