Deidra Babcock has been an eighth grade English language arts teacher at Yosemite Middle School for the past six years and was selected as a 2016 Excellence in Education finalist. Principal Nichole Horn said Babcock mentors other teachers in the "Yosemite way of building relationships with students first so that each student knows we care so they will care to learn."
What made you decide to be a teacher? At the age of five I decided I wanted to be a teacher ... if the whole princess thing didn't work out.
What strategies have you found work the best to get through to students? I believe in establishing a relationship with each student and building upward. My building tools of choice: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I do my best to guide my students through the tough valleys and rejoice with them on the mountain peaks.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching? I am honored with hand hugs (find out what this is if you don't already know - it's pretty much the cutest), fist bumps, high-fives, and the occasional hand-made card in which they almost always spell "you're" wrong - but it's the thought that counts.
What is the most challenging part of your job? What makes it a challenging grade level?
One challenge is the dreaded (but completely necessary) one-application-of-deodorant-a-day-is-not-enough conversation with my kiddos on hot Fresno afternoons. Middle school students are new to this realization and tactfully worded hints are very beneficial to the overall aroma of my classroom when the temperatures begin to climb above 100 degrees. Another challenge is grading. Period. Let's see... one more challenge is the fact that middle school students have the attention span of about two minutes. Yep. That is a huge challenge.
What do you find the most interesting about middle school students? Everything. They are still deciding who they want to be -- "do I want to be the class clown, the good girl, the bad boy, or the smart kid?" I love that middle schoolers are standing at the crossroads of who they will become and can be gently guided down the right path. Middle school students are very impressionable, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to lovingly nudge them down the straight and narrow.
What book are you recommending to others right now?
I recommend "The Book Thief"' by Markus Zusak, to everyone. It has the most beautiful imagery I have ever encountered in a book and the personification of death is unmatched by any other author (in my humble opinion).
What's your favorite book for middle school students?
My favorite book for middle school students is "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton. It is the only book I have read with my students that brings out a fierce loyalty and love from every single child in the classroom. Differences such as: wealth, gender, cultural background, race, and religion make no difference -- every child is able to connect with the book. They absolutely love it.
Name one thing most people do not know about you. I studied abroad in England for one semester in college. Most people do not know that I love England; I love their tea, their innumerable accents and dialects, their scones with clotted cream, and their strange obsession with hoity-toity dogs. What I do not love about England is their equally strange, but much less pleasant, obsession with peas. They serve peas with nearly everything.
What do you like to do on your down time? In my down time I love to read beautifully written books or spend time with my handsome husband.