Teacher Voices: A Summer of Reading, Professional Learning, and Reflection (Brad Waguespack, Vestavia Hills)

This summer Emily Strickland, our Alabama Best Practices Center Program Coordinator, is asking a selection of teachers engaged in our statewide educator networks to let us know how they’ll be spending their summer break “and what’s on your mind as you use this time to relax and plan for the year ahead?”

Brad R. Waguespack
Vestavia Hills High School
Environmental Science

1) What books are you reading this summer?

This summer I am reading a variety of personal and professional texts.  Right now I am reading A World Lost by Wendell Berry and listening to The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. As for professional reading I am still trying to make sense of the principles and ideas that Jessica Sprick and Randy Sprick presented in their fantastic ASCD book, School Leader’s Guide to Tackling Attendance Challenges.  A brilliant and challenging read.

2) How will you be continuing your professional learning this summer?

I am currently working on my Ed.S. at Samford and this summer’s focus is on school reform.  I teach AP Environmental Science and will return to the College Board’s summer training to hear how the format of the test and the structure of the curriculum have changed. This past week I  attended the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Native Plant Conference and learned all about native plants, local natural history, Alabama’s ancient forests, etc.

3) What reflection process do you use to think about the past year and plan for the next?

My daily walks and work in the garden provide opportunity to clear my mind of the plaque created over the year of teaching.  Summer allows me to differentiate between what school issues were mountains and what were mole hills.  Slow mundane tasks like weeding settle my mind and provide me time to think about what I want to do differently in the classroom next year.  For 19 years I have worked for Outward Bound and I spend my July working and reconnecting with that very progressive thoughtful group of educators.  Its a cornerstone to my education.

4) What advice would you give a first year teacher on how best to use their first summer as a way to prepare for the next school year?

 Rest and take time to feed your mind, body and spirit.  Teaching is a rewarding and demanding vocation.  I believe strongly that you must feed yourself so that you are available to build and maintain relationships that foster learning.  The school year is long and every day students need you to be your best to engage them your curriculum and content.  What is fun is that every year you get better; the rough edges smooth.

Brad R. Waguespack currently teaches Environmental Science at Vestavia Hills High School and is working on his Education Specialist degree at Samford University. Here’s some of his story:

“I began my education training by working for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School on the coast of Maine. I learned to teach in the classroom on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Eastern Montana.  After teaching there for about four years, I moved to teach at the Renaissance Expeditionary Learning School in Springfield, Massachusetts.”

“When I decided to return to Alabama to help establish my family’s small farm, I taught biology at Pell City High School.  All of the teaching positions across the country with various student populations in a variety of settings have provided me a firm foundation as an educator.”