First-grade teacher Heather Waild ’16 (School of Education) loves reading. Students enjoy the camping adventure theme in her classroom at Portlock Elementary School in Chesapeake, where she encourages them to ‘camp out with a good book’ under a tent. Her students read aloud for every subject she teaches, create their own books, and choose books to read on their own time. For promoting literacy through these and other activities, the Virginia State Reading Association (VRSA) recognized Waild as the 2017 Reading Teacher of the Year.
“So many people have sculpted me as a person and as a teacher that the honor is not completely mine,” said Waild. “I must share it with those who have encouraged me to write a grant for reading, get involved with reading councils, start my own literacy blog and more. I have realized that you are only as good as the people that surround you.”
Waild shares her literacy expertise with other teachers by serving on the Chesapeake Reading Council and presenting at conferences with VRSA and the Piedmont Reading Council. She also publishes about literacy education on the web with her own blog, Campfire Curriculum with Helpful Heather, and other blogs including Adventures in Literacy Land, and Virginia is for Teachers. She says her Regent education was crucial in making her a confident teacher.
“Through research-based study and writing I was able to think more critically about what I do in my classroom on a daily basis,” said Waild. “The professors at Regent challenged me to have an open mind and constantly reflect while growing.”
Being a full-time teacher is something Waild dreamed of for 23 years as her husband served in the U.S. Army, frequently requiring her family to move. She would volunteer in schools and substitute teach, and once her husband retired, she started teaching in Norfolk, Virginia, and eventually moved into the Chesapeake Public Schools. Earning her Master’s in Education degree at Regent enabled her to serve students during the summer by becoming reading specialist at Horizons Hampton Roads.
“I got where I am today by being an open and reflective teacher,” said Waild. “There are so many aspects of my teaching that I change after discussing theories with other teachers or by reflecting on what may not be working and why. If we are not open to change we will close so many doors on ourselves.”
Waild says her students constantly motivate her as she sees them move from being emergent readers to confident and competent ones. They pledge each day to proclaim their greatness and try their best. Literacy, she says, is a student’s key to the world because it encompasses every subject her students face from cooking to crafting, to athletics.
“Proficient literacy is important,” said Waild. “Yet, we must remember in the younger years that many factors can skew reading progress. Some students need the gift of time. All students blossom at different rates, and we must be sensitive to that.”
Waild says her students’ “never-give-up” attitude and gregarious nature are inspiring and contagious. Her love for teaching comes from her heart, and she sincerely loves being a teacher and making a difference.