Few people know their true calling from a young age. Jamie Haines, Rectory History Department team leader and Grade 6 history and English teacher, knew she was born to teach.
When Jamie Haines describes the pillars of her teaching, they include engagement, choices, and knowing her students.
"A lot of my teaching involves understanding my students to the best of their ability. Everything I do, I try to do with the knowledge of how my students' brains work," said Mrs. Haines, Rectory History Department team leader, and Grade 6 history and English teacher.
This requires testing the students early in the academic year. Not testing in the traditional, standardized testing sense. She tests their grit, learning styles, and resiliency and uses that data to inform her lesson planning.
"I'm constantly trying to create engaging lessons for my kinesthetic learners, my visual learners, and work with them on ways to build their self-confidence," she said.
She makes them re-do their work and holds them to a high standard because she knows what they're capable of and won't take anything less. A phrase she borrowed from fellow history teacher Patrick McCarthy and often used in her classroom is "it's called 're-search' for a reason." This occasionally elicits some groans, but the students understand her expectations.
"They want the answers so fast. I make them slow down, and problem solve. For some of them, it's hard work to find the answers. I'm here to help them, but they have to do it independently. I believe in them," she said. "They're developing skills to be independent thinkers and workers, and that's what our society needs."
She pushes and challenges their stamina for learning so that it strengthens throughout the year, including attention span and attention to detail. She also tries to be quick to recognize the successes, no matter how small or unrecognizable to others.
"I need to know my students so I can really reach them, teach them the way they need to be taught, understand where they're struggling. Celebrate their successes. This could be a student challenged with writing, so we do it in smaller chunks and take breaks. In the end, it's accomplished, and that's a success," she said.
To keep her students engaged, Mrs. Haines gives her students a lot of choices during lessons and projects. She collaborates with other teachers across departments on her geography lessons. For example, this year, her class is studying Latin America, and she is working with Spanish teacher Dawson Woodard on ways to complement their curriculum. After teaching sixth grade for 15 years, changing the geography focus (Sub-Saharan Africa one year and the Middle East the next, for example) helps keep the course fresh for her.
When asked why she has spent her entire academic career in sixth grade, she said it could be because she still has sixth-grade humor, and the students laugh at her jokes.
She has known just about her entire life that she wanted to be a teacher or a librarian. As a child, school was her safe place. Teachers and school librarians fed her desire for knowledge by letting her borrow as many books as she could carry and kept old worksheets for her to bring home and use as props when she lined up her stuffed animals and Cabbage Patch dolls to "play school" in her room. That early support keeps her motivated to do the same for her students and feeds her insatiable need to keep learning and share what she's discovered.
"I love seeing the spark in a student's eyes when they learn something interesting and make a connection to something they've previously learned or in their life. I try to be more mindful that sometimes I connect with them not through the grandiose lessons and curriculum but through the little things. The older and more experienced I've gotten, I realize I need to teach them the content, but I also need to teach them how to be good humans," she said.
Teaching is her passion, and Rectory has allowed her to be the teacher she is meant to be.
"My colleagues and administrators trust me to be a teacher and give me the freedom to do things in the classroom that I didn't get in public school. Rectory is a community; we're so interconnected in everything we do, from the classroom, coaching, and dorm coverage. It's celebrated here. I finally feel like I'm in a place that accepts me for my nerdy, silly, sixth-grade humor, my 3 a.m. emails, and my geeky passion for teaching and organization," she said.
While Mrs. Haines might have known she wanted to be a teacher from day one, she does enjoy life outside of lesson planning and the classroom. Books, travel, and genealogical discovery top her list of loves. She has globes and maps in each room of her house (her students would not be surprised) and has travel plans, including a trip to Scotland, England, and Wales this summer to trace her family roots.
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