FCC Grad McGehee Chooses Teaching
“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime,” Confucius. This is the approach FCC graduate Gayle McGehee has used for 15 years while teaching third graders at Northside School in Fairfield. She is passionate about teaching and truly believes if learning is fun and innovative, students will challenge themselves and excel.
To promote a team atmosphere, her class is known as McGehee’s Mighty Ducks. Students are encouraged to work together, always giving their best for the team. Her classroom is unique; you’ll find a cozy reading loft in one corner of the classroom where students can go for self-selected reading time; pretending to be a news reporter, book reports are presented through a TV with no screen or as a PowerPoint presentation; and an interactive smart board is used across the curriculum to enhance and enrich learning.
McGehee keeps the class webpage updated with photos of class activities, PowerPoint presentations created by students, age related web links, and trivia questions for her students. This website is a safe place for students to navigate as well as sharing news and photos with family who live away.
Outside of the classroom, students learn from the schoolyard habitat that was originally designed by McGehee’s third grade class in 1997. The habitat is certified by the National Wildlife Federation and the Illinois Audubon as a “Bird and Wildlife” sanctuary and over the years has offered a place for students to plant tulip bulbs and harvest monarch larvae as they monitor migratory patterns and the changing of the seasons through lessons available online.
"Using technology and the online resources available today allow me the opportunity to take my students across national borders and into classrooms and other learning environments that weren't available just a few short years ago,” stated McGehee. “That same technology allows for students in our IECC colleges to complete class requirements in new and innovative ways making goals more achievable with each semester."
McGehee credits Frontier Community College for making it possible to pursue a career in teaching. Frontier offered a flexible schedule that worked well for her as a non-traditional college student balancing coursework with family and working as a full-time teacher’s aide. She completed an Associate in Science degree in 1993 graduating with high honors. Continuing her education though Eastern Illinois University, McGehee earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education in 1995 and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction through SIU-Carbondale in 1999.
Outstanding awards and achievements include
- Walmart Teacher of the Year in 2004
- ICCTA Distinguished Alumnus Award Nominee in 2004
- Illinois Master Teaching Certificate in 2003
- National Board Certification in 2002
- Excellence of Instructional Technology award in 1999
As a teacher at Northside, McGehee mentored a co-teacher working to move from her Illinois initial teaching certificate to her Illinois standard teaching certificate during 2008-10. She currently serves on the School Improvement Committee and a newly formed curriculum committee which looks at how to implement the common core standards the state of Illinois recently adopted.
In addition to teaching third grade, McGehee serves as an adjunct instructor at Frontier Community College teaching courses related to elementary education. “I can effectively communicate with the students at Frontier because I have experienced those same feelings of anxiety that many students feel,” stated McGehee. “I also feel my classroom teaching experience can be applied to the material covered in the textbook. I tell my students that to be a successful teacher, they have to be a lifelong learner.” During the summer she has taught science camps and a Power of Poetry class for children.
A long range goal of McGehee’s is to work with a senior university teaching courses for an off-site bachelor’s degree program in elementary education or working in a student teaching department.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would choose the same path starting with Frontier Community College,” stated McGehee. “It has offered me many opportunities and much success. Going back to school as a non-traditional student would not have been a consideration of mine without the local campus of Frontier Community College.”