Teacher Feature: Ms. Holden-Gatling


Zana Holden-Gatling

Hometown: Washington, DC
Undergrad & Major: Winston Salem State University, Elementary Education
Favorite Book as a Child: As a young child, Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse, and when I was older, The Harry Potter Series;  I always loved to be in my own world, and both books really made me feel like that was okay.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Teaching runs in my family. A lot of people who I admire and respect – my parents, my grandparents, are educators. Being a teacher always seemed like it would be my way to have a profound effect on the world. I knew I wasn’t going to be the one to find the cure for cancer – but I knew I could get a child to think outside the box in a way that could help them transform the world one day. I knew I could instill in children the importance of creating positive change in their communities.

Why did you choose the Inspired Teaching Residency?

Compared to all of the other programs I looked at, Inspired Teaching seemed to be the program that most emphasized expanding the mind of the child. I chose Inspired Teaching because I knew I would learn to teach the whole child, rather than simply what’s on the test. I knew the Residency would give me to tools to reach kids on that profound level, the tools I need to help children become changemakers.

Are there any takeaways from Summer Institute that have already impacted the way you think about teaching & learning?

Definitely! At Inspired Teaching’s Summer Institute, I learned the importance of creating a strong sense of community early on. Creating community in our first grade classroom is very important to me. I let the kids know that we all have purpose, within our school and within our classroom. If we learn to share with each other and care about each other, we create an environment where everyone is happy to learn and grow. Once students are aware of the contributions they make and the contributions their peers make, it makes it so much easier for kids to appreciate each other and appreciate their differences.

What has surprised you most about your first couple of months as a Resident at Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS?

Even when you have really effective teaching strategies and tools, they don’t always work! There’s still trial and error involved and sometimes it’s really challenging. You find that balance, knowing you can’t be a perfect teacher, while also continuing to push yourself to be the best teacher you can be.

Is there a teacher who made a difference in your life?

I had the same Biology teacher for Middle and High School. She was the Inspired Teacher, before I even knew what an Inspired Teacher really was. She cared about me as a whole person, both Zana inside of the classroom and Zana outside of the classroom. She took my least favorite subject and made it my favorite subject because she could relate to me and she went the extra mile. As a teacher, I strive to be like her by looking at my students and working to understand their worlds outside of schools. I want to know their families, their interests, their circumstances, so I can make learning more worthwhile and more fun for them.

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