STOP! It's Ms Steph Billings!

What happens when you change USA into AUS?

Lucky we aren't talking politics because we would all be in deep trouble either way!

For this teacher she started her career in the USA and is now an honourable AUSSIE.

She is great with tech and has some awesome teaching strategies to share, she also has a great ability to manage her well being, which we love so much!

Ms Steph Billings

Follow her on Instagram: @msstephbillings

Let's hear about Steph's journey as a teacher beginning in Orlando, Florida and now loving the Aussie teacher life...

What is your current role and level of experience?

I’m currently a Year 2 Teacher for two days a week and DigiTech Leader and TDS (Teacher Development School) Coordinator for two days a week. I’ve been teaching for

over 8 years. I started my teaching career in Orlando, FL, USA and moved to Australia 4.5 years later. 

What did you love most about teaching in the USA?

I loved my old school in the USA (Sunrise Elementary School in Orlando, FL) because they let teachers be creative and innovative. It was so hard leaving them because we always had a close staff that enjoyed each other’s company.

What are your strengths as a teacher?

I love technology and utilising it to enhance learning in my classroom, as well as assisting colleagues in this area. I’m growing as a coach in my role and I love inspiring teachers to embrace technology in the classroom.

How is teaching in the USA different from or similar to Australia?

It’s quite similar teaching in Australia and in USA so my transition was moderate. I had to adjust my spelling (obviously) and some curriculum content. However, I feel like Australia trusts teachers to create programs that are personalised to their classrooms. I LOVE teaching here and consider myself an Australian teacher.

What things do you do to build strong positive relationships with your students?

The first week of school is all about building those relationships. I used to work at a summer camp for 4 years and we often did team building activities with the campers  I’ve taken some of these activities to create a classroom community where we respect, support and praise each other. This is continued throughout the year and we always celebrate small successes when students are uplifting each other.

How do you think we can better prepare teachers for leading well?

Teaching can be very overwhelming at times and having a support group always helps. It's great to have them as confidants where you can share your worries, ask for help, offer advice and reassure each other. I have a great group of friends that understands what it's like to be a teacher and they're always there to help me in times of stress.

What has been your most rewarding teaching experience, please describe?

My school has a high EALD population and our young readers may find English quite difficult. This year we have worked on meeting the individual needs of all of our students and the EALD students have flourished so much over the year. One of my students has moved from only being able to spell about 70 sights words to over 200! I’m so proud of his work ethic and dedication towards learning.

Outline your favourite lesson to teach, what would you have the kids do?

I love integrating other learning areas to create rich lessons, such as the STEM approach to projects. For example, I have done a program on researching the Titanic to integrate informational texts in Writing, understanding non-fiction text features and main idea and supporting detail in Reading, recreating a scene from our text in Art and challenging the student a to recreate their own Titanic boat and testing the maximum weight using Science and Mathematics. The students really enjoyed these lessons over the years.

What brings you the most joy and how do you celebrate these successes?

Those ‘lightbulb’ moments in the classroom. I am patient when trying to help students understand a new concept. I let them explore with me when navigating through new content and allow time for them to discover their own explanations rather than just giving them the content. To celebrate these moments, we like to share this on Seesaw so that the parents can celebrate with us. I’ve started a program with the Year 6 IT Leaders where we started celebrating successes across the whole school in a weekly news broadcast. 

How do you manage your stress level and maintain positive well-being to be happy and teach well?

This is one thing I used to struggle with until one day when I realised ‘there’s always something to do.’ No matter how much extra time you put into your class, you can always add more to your to-do list. I’ve made myself stop work at a certain point in the day and take time to enjoy life. I set an alarm for 90 minutes after school let’s out and make myself finish up what is needed and head home.

I have a 35 minute commute so I take that time to unwind my thoughts of the day and sing along as I drive. Once I’m home I try to do some sort of exercise for at least 30 minutes. I may do a few things at home but I try not to do a lot. You need time to let your mind relax before bed.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of teaching?

Taking time to relax and unwind with friends, family and my dogs. I love just being home or going on walks with my pups! I can't wait for spring and summer so that we can go to the beach more often because they absolutely love running off that energy and playing with other dogs. 

Describe one piece of advice you would give a new teacher starting your career in education?

My one piece of advice to a new teacher would be to focus on YOUR journey and take small steps in the beginning. I find graduate teachers try so hard right away to make their classrooms look perfect, compare themselves to veteran teachers and are often too hard on themselves. The first few years may be hard but just take a step back and focus on the most important parts and take the journey slowly. You're not expected to know it all right away and you will grow over the years. If you're feeling overwhelmed talk with your mentor teacher or a colleague you trust. It's overwhelming at first but you will find your way and the right path!

Your school year has just started, what are you most excited for the year ahead?

My friends at home in USA have just started and I wish them the best of luck to the new school year! It's so exciting to see how all my old colleagues still get the 'first day jitters' and excitement to meet their new students. I can't believe it's Term 3 and Week 6 for us already! That's only 14 weeks left of school, it feels like the year just started. I've got to cherish the time I have left with my current students as they make me smile everyday.

Is there any particular area you would love to see covered by SMILE Teachers?

I would love to see teachers sharing some celebration stories on some successes they're having in the classroom. It's so uplifting to hear stories of positivity within the teaching community. It always makes me happy to see other teachers doing well and inspires me to try new things in the class. 

Great idea Steph! We will be sure to have some celebration parties online for all our Smile Teachers. Follow the journey by subscribing now teachers!

We have registrations open for our Bali Teachers Retreat in January and upcoming Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop in Perth and online this October. Register today to secure place to meet more like minded teachers in person and help create a better education world.

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