Teacher Spotlight – Jordan Arkels

  1. Where did you go to college and what inspired you to work in a school setting? 

I went to college at Illinois State University (go Redbirds!) and graduated in the fall of 2013 with my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I grew up in a small town with an excellent school and was very lucky to have teachers who inspired me daily. I’ve known since childhood that I wanted to spend my life teaching in a school setting. I have always felt at home in school and wanted to give children a similar experience of wholesome learning that is fun and mindful. 

  1. Is this your first position in education or have you taught or served elsewhere? 

I spent two years serving in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) traveling the country and volunteering in different areas that were in desperate need of assistance. Then I taught two years of GSRP Pre-Kindergarten prior to accepting my position at Dove. This is my first position as an elementary school teacher!

  1. What was the deciding factor in choosing to teach at Dove?

When I entered the school and waited in the main office, I was greeted by Ms. Driskell who said, “you’ve got this baby, this school is a great place to work and you’ll fit right in.” The sense of belonging and inspiration I received within minutes of entering the building was something I can’t even explain. During my interview with Mr. Brooks, I felt he was the kind of leader I could really follow. He is incredibly friendly but also has a ‘no excuse’ attitude about each child being cared for and he really pushes his staff to become leaders in their own classrooms, amongst the staff, and in the community as well.  I was very impressed with his vision and felt that my vision as a teacher fit his (vision) as a principal. I knew this was going to be my school. 

  1. How do you build a family-like atmosphere in your classroom?

I make the classroom a home away from home for my students and constantly encourage healthy communication. They always have opportunities to be silly together, work together, debate together, and to be creative every day. I feel that if you follow the lead of what your students need, you’ll be able to provide space and opportunities to help them get there.

From the first day of school until the last day we sit down in a circle and get to know each other. We play energizing/reflective/ice breaking/creative/teamwork games. I introduced them to what healthy debating is, agreeing to disagree, and active listening throughout daily lessons. We always made sure we had a chance to work with other kiddos in the classroom by changing seat locations every two weeks and by randomizing partners. We had safe places they could go to in the classroom where they knew they could be alone to calm their bodies and minds. 

  1. What’s your secret ingredient in your classroom? What techniques do you use that students really gravitate toward? 

My secret ingredient is using mindfulness constantly. As a teacher, I really try to think about how my interactions and lessons are impacting them and how each day now will help them in the future. I try not to waste time in my classroom but, rather, come up with things that the kids will think are fun but actually have an underlying lesson to be learned from. I encourage any rifts or arguments to be communicated calmly and effectively with me as a mediator. The kids know the rules because we mindfully made them together. I feel that mindfulness as a teacher and a student is a key factor to making sure that not a second is wasted because the respect and understanding we all receive from each other is the main component of classroom management, procedures, activities, everything. 

  1. What is your favorite part of teaching? 

My favorite part of teaching is watching the growth and connections that the students are making daily. I love building relationships and helping kids figure out their emotions, words, and understanding of concepts. I love to reflect on the changes they made daily and throughout the year. It really is, in my opinion, one of the most fulfilling careers you could ever have. 

  1. How would a student best describe you?

My students would tell me daily that I am a fun and nice teacher. I would get love notes all the time and was accidentally called ‘mom’ way too many times to count! I hope they would say I am nurturing, fun, and able to really get them learning! 

  1. What would your colleagues say about you?

I think my colleagues would say that I am friendly and supportive. My colleagues are all great friends to have in the workplace!