5th-grade teacher at Keene Mill Elementary School in Springfield, Va.
Nominated by Alan Simpson:
“She is a teacher who has taken advantage of modern class seating and structure. Firm but fair. She has consistent upward trending testing and also grades that show massive improvement from day one to the end of the year. She keeps kids engaged and uses their interests to guide them in a Blue Ribbon school. She is my wife, but a long-time veteran of school systems who knows how to bring the learning. She has awesome relations with fellow teachers and parents, all while raising a family.”
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Q&A with Bridgette Simpson
What initially got you interested in teaching?
I come from a family of teachers. My grandfather was a teacher and principal, my father was a teacher and college professor, and I have numerous aunts, uncles and cousins who are also teachers. So, valuing education is something that has been instilled in me from a very young age. I love sharing knowledge and helping others develop their creativity and ability to think and problem solve. I feel like I was born to be a teacher.
Why do you think teachers are essential?
Teachers have the opportunity to make a difference in individual students, but also to a society in general. We can help our students develop the knowledge, critical thinking skills and love of learning that are so crucial to the advancement of an innovative and successful society. A single teacher can make a difference in the lives of their students that is carried on for years. It’s a huge responsibility, but one that all teachers can be proud of.
What is the single best piece of advice you can give parents?
Let your kids be kids. Support them and encourage them to be good students, but remember that physical, social and emotional development is just as important. Children need to be allowed to develop into well-rounded, confident, kind, creative citizens. Also, teaching is a team effort that relies on positive parent-teacher connections. When we work together, we are so much more useful than if we are working against one another. Healthy parent-teacher relationships are a crucial part of developing successful students.
What’s your funniest teaching moment?
I had the unusual opportunity to teach my own daughter’s math class in 4th grade. She’s a great student but had struggled to always complete her work on time. It never made sense to me knowing what I knew about her at home. One day when I was giving notes to the class, I looked over and saw that she was writing each word in a different color, making a rainbow page of notes. The difficulty in completing assignments suddenly made sense. I laughed about it, then quickly helped her make a change to her notetaking skills.
How can parents and teachers work together to empower and engage children?
First, teachers and parents both need to assume good intentions. We may have different ideas about how to work with students, but ultimately, we all have the same goal- successful, happy, well-rounded kids. Teachers should invite parents into the classroom to volunteer and spend time with their kids, and parents can help by offering support and encouraging their children at home. I send home a monthly newsletter letting parents know what we will be working on in each subject area and help parents to find real-world experiences that reinforce what we are learning at school.