Michael Moxley is a first-grade teacher at Cedar Grove Elementary School, Germantown. He was interviewed at the school Jan. 8.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my sixth year, all in first grade. I taught at Oakland Terrace [Elementary School, Silver Spring] for four years and this is my second year at Cedar Grove. At Frostburg, I majored in early childhood education. I like the younger ones because I get to be myself. I have a child’s sense of humor. I was the only male in early childhood education. There were three others in the elementary education program.
What made you decide to go into teaching?
I went to a very small church and helped with the child care. I liked working with the kids. In high school, I did a half-day internship with kindergartners at Liberty Elementary School in Frederick County. I worked with kids who were struggling. It was rewarding because we helped. I think that is why a lot of teachers go into it. They see progress and reward themselves by being proud of themselves. That is something I like to teach my kids: If you work hard, you will be rewarded. If they can be self motivated and hard working, it pays dividends in the long run.
At this level, most teachers are women. Do you find it difficult to work in a female-dominated profession?
I don’t feel like it is difficult. I have a sister and a mother. I’m a laid-back personality and able to relate to both [men and women]. My mom always taught equality. I don’t feel a strong sense of competition — more a sense of collaboration.
What is your biggest challenge in working with students at the beginning of their elementary school years?
I think as a teacher, there is always something I can do. The challenge is to prioritize the planning, preparing things for the students, to pick out the most important things. Like grading so they get feedback. That can alter what I do the next day: reteach or challenge them more.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for the students?
How to apply themselves and learn to be independent. I do focus on being independent as a way of being self-motivated. They need extra reassurance, but I think for them, it’s being able to apply themselves, to try things that are hard for them.
How do you keep them engaged?
Well, Mickey Mouse comes and teaches math on Friday — I do that with gloves and ears and a different voice. I also use Mr. Robot, who asks lots of questions because he doesn’t understand how the world works. That helps with critical thinking. Remembering they are 6 and 7 years old, I use humor in the classroom.
What is the greatest area of growth from August to June for first graders?
Independent growth for sure. Being able to do things on their own, like writing in sentences. I see a huge growth in reading. It’s partly developmental, but it’s also the more they read, the faster the growth will be. There is a lot of maturing in first grade — learning how to work with others, being able to apply themselves. There is growth everywhere, for sure. That’s rewarding for me.
If you had one super power to help you with your job, what would that be?
I’d clone myself. I think I could meet the needs of my students better if there were two of me. I could do two reading groups! They each need and deserve individual time. It’s nice to sit here and go over their work with them.
I notice that you are in graduate school for reading, why did you choose that?
Reading is a very important subject in school and will always be of value to me as a teacher. It interests me because I struggled with it in school. I struggled with phonics and phonemic awareness because I have dyslexia. When I am finished, I could be a reading specialist if I wanted, but I like my classroom.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about you, your job or your school?
I went to the school board meeting discussing how Curriculum 2.0 was going in first grade. Curriculum 2.0 is Montgomery County’s new curriculum that matches the new common core state standards. The standards are meant to be relevant and prepare students to the future, whether it is college or a career.
There are great things about the new curriculum, but some teachers don’t know what’s expected of them and there is also a learning curve to the new curriculum because it is new to all of us. Teachers are working hard to learn and apply it appropriately to their classroom. It brings updated technology and concepts to the classroom to help students be successful in the future. There are less concepts to teach to students, but it allows students to dig deeper into the material and think critically about concepts that are being taught.
The outcome of the meeting was to identify where improvements can be made to help teachers effectively implement the curriculum and explain how teachers are using the new curriculum to meet the needs of the students. There was no real change or result, but we informed the board of education of how we are using the curriculum and what else can be done to help teachers be more efficient in applying [it] to the classroom.
“Voices in Education” is a twice-monthly feature that highlights the men and women who are involved with the education of Montgomery County’s children. To suggest someone you would like to see featured, email Peggy McEwan at firstname.lastname@example.org.