Can you believe it’s back to school time already? The past few months have been a whirlwind, but we’re excited for the 2020-2021 school year. Although the start of school will be a bit different this year, there are many aspects that will stay the same. We sat down with MacArthur High School Spanish teacher Emily Towler to see how she’s planning for the new school year and what advice she has for students.
Irving ISD: How long have you been teaching in Irving ISD?
ET: This will be my fifth year teaching, all in Irving ISD.
Irving ISD: How are you preparing for the upcoming school year?
ET: Even though my students won’t be in my classroom for a little while, I’m still setting up my classroom to look nice. I want my students to be able to tell that my classroom is a warm and fun place, even if it’s just on the Zoom calls when we get started. I also upgraded my tech set-up at my desk, adding a standing desk and a ring light.
Irving ISD: What are some traditions you have for the first day of school?
ET: I like to wake up super early (as my students could tell you, I always do), actually do my hair for the only time in the school year, and then get to school and have a cup of coffee as the day starts. I like being one of the first people at school on that day because the energy and anticipation is really exciting in the calm before the day starts.
Irving ISD: What inspires you?
ET: I am so inspired by (and proud of) the class of 2020. These students were the first freshmen I ever taught, and the first class I got to see from the start to the finish of their high school careers. They rolled with the punches of ending their senior year in COVID, even when it meant replacing their prom with a prom parade and having their last day of high school on a computer screen instead of in Mac’s hallways. Seeing these graduates walk across home plate at the Texas Rangers’ stadium was the perfect culmination of their high school years, even though it was nothing like they imagined. I can’t wait to see what they go on to accomplish!
Irving ISD: In which teacher’s class would you like to enroll, even for a day? Why?
ET: This is so hard to answer! I’m a nerd, and my colleagues are amazing, passionate teachers who are experts in their subjects. If I had to choose, I would say either Katie Turner’s AP Psychology class or Diego Oliveros’s Latin American Studies class. I have seen them put so much thought into each of these courses and would love to learn from them in action!
Irving ISD: What song should students listen to when doing work for your class? Why?
ET: If you’re doing work for Spanish class, you should be listening to music in Spanish, too! (I can’t listen to music in a language different than the one I’m working in). I am a huge fan of Rosalía, an artist from Barcelona who combines traditional flamenco music with pop and hip hop. Her album El Mal Querer is one of my all-time favorites.
Irving ISD: What is your first memory from school?
ET: I remember attending kindergarten in Temple, Texas, and taking my very first Spanish class! It was my favorite part of each week to get to begin learning a new language.
Irving ISD: What’s the best thing about being a teacher?
ET: I’ve taught multiple levels of Spanish over the last four years, so I’ve gotten to have many “repeat” students as they move through their high school journeys. Being able to see a student’s growth in your content area, especially when they start from scratch like most students do in Spanish 1, makes my heart really full. It’s embarrassing, but grading final writing and speaking exams in May usually makes me a little emotional because I’m so proud of my kids’ growth!
Irving ISD: What advice can you give other teachers that are planning for the upcoming school year?
ET: We should be both challenging ourselves and giving ourselves grace. We are, of course, doing everything we can to ensure that every student gets the best possible experience in our classes, regardless of whether they’re in person or online, which means we have to try techniques and tools we haven’t used before. Just like we encourage our students to do: try something new, and if you don’t get it right the first time, learn from your mistake rather than beating yourself up about it.
Irving ISD: What advice can you give students about this upcoming school year—especially those doing remote learning?
ET: Give yourself a routine. Find a good space to work at home; set it up so it’s comfortable; and stick to your schedule. Doing your homework at 1:45 AM is just as unhealthy in distance learning as it was before! I also think it’s important to find time for movement in your day. In a normal day at Mac, we have 7 passing periods where students get a little exercise as they walk to their next class, and with as big as our campus is, you get a lot of steps! Finding time before or after school to walk or run, find a yoga video on YouTube, or dance around to your favorite playlist will help keep your mental health balanced.
For more information on Back to School, visit www.irvingisd.net/backtoschool. We’ll see you (virtually) August 17 for the First Day of School!