Forming bonds with her students aids in Adams’ teaching career

Fifth-grade science teacher Erin Adams works with students Preston Schultz and Ben Zirkelbach as they experiment with the brain’s response to stimulus. Adams enjoys teaching, forming connections with her students, and making a difference in their lives. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     Her “soft spot” for children is why Erin Adams became a teacher.

     The Monticello fifth grade teacher has led by example.

     “My grandma was a third-grade teacher; my third-grade teacher,” shared Adams. “And we used to play school.” She said those experiences opened her eyes to a career in education.

     Adams is in her 12th year teaching for the MCSD. As a fifth-grade teacher, she instructs science, social studies and reading classes.

     While attending Cascade High School, Adams took part in a career practicum, which involved working with elementary-aged students. Adams said she learned that she’s perhaps more inclined to work with middle-school-aged kids instead.

     “At this stage in life, kids are making that difficult transition in life,” she said of easing out of elementary school and into middle school. “I just hope that I can be someone that they’ll remember as having made a difference or helped to make this point in their life better some how.”

     When Adams started teaching fifth grade, she experienced teaching the entire grade-level curriculum. Now, the subjects are broken up into different departments, with different teachers taking on those subjects.

     “This year,” she said, “social studies falls under the umbrella with science.”

     Monticello Middle School has 63 fifth graders this year.

     “It’s all fifth grade every day,” Adams joked of her school day schedule.

     Incorporating social studies and science, she said she encourages her students to bring in current events in which the subjects overlap.

     “Social studies is paradigm shift,” Adams explained. Teachers have changed the way in which the subject is taught.

     Adams said she starts the beginning of the school year discussing how the United States was formed, highlighting the U.S. Constitution and westward expansion.

     “There’s a lot of project-based learning going on,” Adams said.

     They also dive into Iowa history, where the fifth graders get to travel to West Branch for a tour of the Hoover Presidential Museum and Library, home of Iowa’s only U.S. President.

     “We talk about how the world has changed politically,” added Adams.

     There is also a program about the Medal of Honor that explores the pillars of citizenship and patriotism.

     Within the science lessons, Adams said it’s all about inquiry-based, hands-on labs. Last week, the fifth-graders were experimenting with the brain’s response to stimuli. The idea was to see how fast they could move their hand or foot from a falling object, in comparison to how long it took to the message to get from their brain to their hand and foot.

     “There is a lot of student-led work going on,” said Adams of allowing the kids to take the lead in the classroom. “I act as the facilitator.”

     The students take in lessons that center around life, physical and earth sciences.

     The reading lessons are done within group sessions or about 18 and based on those students’ needs, Adams explained.

     “Every student goes to a teacher based on those reading needs,” she said.

     Adams co-teaches reading with fifth and sixth-grade special education teacher Kelly Luckstead.

     Before starting her career, Adams attended Clarke (College) University where she majored in elementary teaching and special education. She earned her master’s from Coe College in arts and teaching with social studies and reading endorsements.

     “This gave me a lot more strategies and tools to use and build upon,” she said of continuing her education and applying it within the classroom.

     Prior to teaching in Monticello, Adams taught sixth through eighth grade special education in Marion.

     “I really enjoyed that,” she said of the experience.

     However, Adams admitted she’s always wanted to teach in Monticello having been from the area.

     “There are so many experiences the fifth graders go through,” she said of being able to witness those changes from elementary to adolescence. “They start becoming more responsible and take more initiative.”

     Adams that’s her favorite part about being a teacher, being involved in kids’ lives.

     “You get to see their growth from when they begin the school when they say they can’t do something to the end when they have that a-ha moment,” she said. “All kids grow at different levels.”

     Living and working in the same community, Adams said you can see the connection families have with the school district throughout the community.

     “You form bonds with the families over time, which is so special,” she said.

     Aside from the community support, Adams said the MCSD staff is very supportive as well, at all levels from the administration on down.

     “There is definitely strength in teaching here,” she said. “You build bonds with everyone.”

     In her free time, Adams and her family stay busy with school events and activities. Adams’ husband, Trent, have a daughter in eighth grade and a son in second grade.

     “It’s never ending,” she teased of how busy they are.

     Taking time for herself, Adams admitted she enjoys shopping, going to the movies, and rereading.

     “I try to see a movie at least once a month,” she said.


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