North Elementary School
November’s Walking Classroom Teacher Feature is Josh Montero, a 5th grade teacher in California. You would never know that Josh Montero is only in his second year of teaching. His enthusiasm for teaching and excitement to implement The Walking Classroom is palpable. We are thrilled that he has joined the TWC family this year and hope you enjoy getting to know more about a fellow teacher and Walking Classroom adopter!
1. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born on the California side of South Lake Tahoe, but lived many years in Santa Cruz before growing up mostly in the San Joaquin valley of Central California (Lodi and Stockton. My father was in the airline business and got transferred around a lot, so we moved quite a bit my first couple years before settling in Santa Cruz up through 3rd grade.
2. How long have you been teaching, and why did you decide to become a teacher?
This is actually just my second year teaching, though it was what I always wanted to do. I developed Diabetes my senior year of college and that ultimately derailed me for a bit. As an insulin dependent
diabetic I needed benefits so I started working and ended up spending a decade in retail. Turns out toiling away selling suits and tailored men’s clothing made me realize tha there was little pride in helping guys find clothes. So I went back to school. Not everything transferred, so when I started up again I wasn’t as close to the finish line as I thought I would be, so it took a couple years of commuting an hour each way to go work full time, and then get off work and drive another hour to school 3 nights a week. But I did it, I survived and lived to tell the tale, and I can honestly tell you every moment was worth it. I just always had the desire to teach, and I am glad that as I veered off course I never lost that and was able to get back on track.
3. When have you been your “best self” as a teacher? (In other words, describe a classroom experience when you felt prouder of yourself than any other time) Do not be modest – teachers need to celebrate their accomplishments!!
Last year was only my first year teaching, and I had a girl who just would not stop talking, ever. She was a sweetheart, and actually quite strong academically, but I had reached my wits’ end and called her out and ended up lecturing her in front of everyone. It wasn’t disrespectful, I was just making the point that if she wanted to follow her dreams and go to college and do all the thing she bragged about wanting to do, she would have to get her act together. She started crying and I felt awful, but then the next morning she ran over to me before school started and gave me a huge hug. I will never forget what she said: “Thank you for believing in me. Nobody thinks I can really go to college, and nobody wants me to be better” she said of her family who were very poor, as were all of our students’ families. I felt bad for calling her out, not that I did it in an inappropriate or mean way, but I didn’t become a teacher to make 11 year olds cry. But that one moment of realizing I was able to reach someone will always stick with me.
4. What are some educational resources that you utilize to help cover the curriculum?
We live in an amazing age for teaching. My school’s population is very poor, and while the school and district are dedicated to providing our students with what we can, they simply cannot do enough. I have been able to earn a few grants as well as get some projects funded through DonorsChoose.org to get my hands on materials, but I have also found some remarkable resources online as well. Newsela.com blows all the other kids’ news sites out of the water, providing current, up to the minute articles on a variety of topics, and all are available at 4 lexile levels to help readers of different abilities to all still work through the same article. I also love Class Dojo, which is an amazing classroom management tool and a good way to connect with parents who do not have internet for email at home, but can send and receive messages through the app on their phone. For my fellow science nerds, the University of Colorado has a website that is full of interactive simulations to help teach things that classroom teachers will not have the resources or infrastructure to carry out in class. There are simulations broken down by grade as well as scientific discipline, and all are outstanding, and can be found at https://phet.colorado.edu/.
5. Please describe an experience that you and/or your students have had with The Walking Classroom.
The Walking Classroom has been a blessing. Ours are kids never get to do many of the simple things that most kids take for granted, so when I told them we had an opportunity to do something that nobody else at our school, and only one other class in our whole district could, they were excited. And not “yay, it’s Friday and they didn’t make fish sticks” excited, but the kind of excited that makes them run up to me as soon as they see me Wednesday and Friday mornings to ask if we’re walking, even though they know we are. I have had a couple brief moments of kids wanting to goof off or talk to their buddies, but honestly, the kids feel so privileged to be able to do this, they get on each other to shape up before I have to. So much of reaching my kids is giving them something to get excited about or believe in, and I try to do both every way I can, but as someone who is still learning to be a great teacher, being able to find tools like The Walking Classroom has been instrumental in reaching my kids. I hear them talking about the podcasts on the playground, and while it doesn’t happen all the time, it’s remarkable to see how things can reach them and get them wanting to talk about it.