New Staff at Carmel Q&A

Siri Surapaneni

Q&A -Josh Peterman, U.S History, AVID teacher 

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to teaching. I was originally in a different major in college. My senior year, I didn’t really like what I was doing. My dad always told me that I should be a teacher. I’m a history nerd, I always have been. And the idea of people paying me to do history all day is pretty awesome. I really like interacting with students and getting to hang out with them and talk to them about cool stuff and show them new things; it’s really fun. 

What is your number one rule in the classroom?

Be respectful, be respectful to each other, be respectful to me, be respectful to the fact that we’re all trying to make the best of the time that we have together and we’re trying to learn stuff. So, as long as you can come in ready to learn and be respectful of the fact that we have a job to do, we can have fun doing it. That’s what I’m about.

Is this your first year teaching or have you worked elsewhere before? If so, where?

This is my first year at Carmel, but this is my seventh year of teaching. So I taught at Troy West High School before this, which is a small county high school that’s west of Indianapolis, about 20 miles west of Indy. 

Why did you decide to teach social studies? What’s so important about it?

Kids need to understand, I mean everybody, needs to understand how the things in our past  affect us in the present and can affect us in the future. Everybody talks about the idea that history was doomed to repeat itself but that’s only the case if we don’t take time to understand our past and understand how the same things come back around eventually, if you’re not willing to prepare for that occurrence. I think it’s really important to study and there’s a lot of really cool stuff to talk about.

What is your biggest takeaway from your teaching experience so far?
Kids are awesome. I think the biggest takeaway I have is that, you know, a lot of young people especially high schoolers, need to be treated more like the young adults they are than kids; they have a lot of really interesting stuff to share and totally unique and interesting in your own way and I think a lot of people would do themselves a favor if they would go out of their way to actually have deep conversations about stuff because (students) have a lot to share and a lot to say.

What is something (your) students have taught you?
Patience. How to be a better person, being patient and dealing with other people but also, understanding that I have skills that I can share with people and advice that I can give. That’s been cool. Teaching has given me a lot of purpose in my life and it’s been really cool to have that.

What do you find most frustrating about teaching?
The most frustrating part is kids not working up to their potential, not necessarily that they’re not trying to work hard, because everybody’s potential is different, but students not understanding that the only thing holding them back is themselves. All of us have stuff we deal with in life, we all have issues, we all have stuff in our past that affects us. But, if you’re not willing to do what you can to help yourself, and be prepared for the ability to do whatever you want in life, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What do you find the most rewarding about teaching?
Getting to hang out with (students) and talk about random stuff, not even necessarily about history, but just getting to have fun conversations and have in-depth and serious conversations about real life events. That’s probably the best part about this whole thing.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Informative, relaxed, understanding, inclusive, and passionate.

Who was your biggest role model? Did a specific teacher while you were in school influence you to go into education?

My dad 100%. For sure. Without a doubt. Not even close. He’s had more of an impact on me than anybody else has. He’s one of my best friends, too. I’m very fortunate.

What are your greatest strengths as a teacher?

The ability to talk to anybody is honestly probably one of my best ones. I can have a conversation with anybody about anything, anything really, I have a ton of hobbies and a ton of stuff I’m interested in. So I think my ability to level with kids and get them to understand that is like, “Hey, man, I like the same stuff you do so as soon as we figure out what it is  we can have a long conversation about tons of different stuff.” So I think that’s probably my best ability as a teacher is just being able to connect with my students. And also, I’m really passionate about what I do. So I think that shows through in the classroom and my interactions with my kids.

How do you like teaching in a school as big as CHS?
Oh man, it’s different. It’s really different. So far the part that I really like is the fact that there are so many different kids here you’ve got so many different backgrounds and perspectives, and kids are allowed to be a lot more unique here, because there’s so many people. There’s always going to be like the ability for a lot of students to find their group so you can literally be more yourself because you don’t have to adhere to somebody else’s idea of what is allowed, per se.

What were you the most nervous about on the first day of school?
Being good at (teaching). I’m the type of person who wants to do a good job, I want to impact my students. I’m not trying to be a role model or anything like that, but just being able to get my content across in a way that’s interesting and kids get it, and just being good at the job, that was really scary. For the first couple of months, just trying to form relationships with these kids who don’t know anything about you, and be respected, but also to be good at the job. It’s hard. A lot of teachers struggle with that for years in some cases.

What is one lesson you would want your students to take with them?

History can be an interesting topic. It’s not always dull facts, names, figures and that kind of stuff, but it’s an ever-changing thing and there’s always something interesting to talk about. I’m not under the delusion that every kid likes history but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something we can find that you’re interested in, that has historical context and importance. So I guess that’s what I want (kids) to take from my class and the fact that you’re a member of society, and if you’re not willing to learn about how society has been affected by past events, how you’re going to prepared to participate when you get the chance.

Q&A- Kathleen Malish, English 10 and English 10 Honors teacher 

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

 I always knew that I liked working with kids. I want to see them grow academically. I really love seeing what an impact you can make on people. I’ve worked with kids a lot growing up. I did summer camps, I taught theater workshops, I babysat and I always found it to be a really fulfilling career path. So I thought about all the different options you can pursue. I was originally in elementary education, but then I did a field placement in a middle school in seventh grade, and I loved how well you could get to know the students and really understand who they were as people, so I decided to switch to secondary (education) and I loved it.

What is your number one rule in the classroom?

Respect, to everyone, to each other, most importantly, to faculty members, teachers, staff, and also respect themselves as people. In English, especially, I feel like it is a classroom environment where you can be really vulnerable with each other. I mean you are doing a lot of public speaking, you’re writing personal stories so really just knowing that it’s a safe place for you to express your thoughts and really grow academically. So be respectful of everyone not putting anyone down for anything that they write or say in the classroom.

Is this your first year teaching or have you worked elsewhere before? If so, where?

This is my first full year teaching, so I graduated from IU in 2020. I finished my student teaching in December of 2020, and I did a short term placement at Carmel Middle School, seventh grade classroom, and then last year, I taught here second semester doing a long-term substitute position. So this is my first full year teaching.

Why did you decide to teach English? What’s so important about it?

I think English is really important because I think the fundamental skills that can be taught in an English classroom are really applicable to any career that you pursue in everyday life, it’s writing skills, reading skills, being able to speak persuasively to speak in front of an audience whether you go into marketing or any career path, if you’re going to be in any interview setting, you’re going to need to know how to speak eloquently and support your argument and even if you’re debating if you’re having a conversation with other people, I think it’s really important to be able to support any point you’re making with evidence and that’s all the purpose of finding textual evidence finding research and be able to research effectively so you really are well rounded and able to successfully pursue whatever career path you choose.

What was your biggest takeaway from your teaching experience so far?

My biggest takeaway is flexibility. I am the biggest planner on the planet, and I like to have everything in detail. I learned very quickly that things don’t go as planned, probably 50% of the time, so it’s really important to adapt. See how lessons are going across with the kids, because things are going to change. You need to be able to change your lessons and adapt so that way best serves the students that you’re teaching. 

What is something (your) students have taught you?

That’s a hard question. I learn stuff from my students every day, whether it’s just a pop culture reference or who people are on TikTok. But, students have taught me. Really what I’ve learned is that, for me, to be  less judgmental and aware that everyone’s always going through something. I remember when I first started college I (thought) when I was in high school I had it so easy, when I was in elementary school, I had it so easy and just thinking that you’re better in every stage of life. But looking back, everyone’s going through their own struggles and you really can’t judge someone for what they’re going through so really learning about each student individually, and what they’re going through and their struggles. You really learn that you can’t judge anyone for what they’re going through. Everyone’s given different challenges to face and everyone deals with obstacles differently, and it’s just making the most of the cards you are dealt.

What do you find most frustrating about teaching?

That’s another hard one.  I love it. You’re going to have stressors; I’d say the most frustrating thing for me is just juggling all the different tasks, and really trying to organize yourself and sometimes it’s a lot thrown at you at once. That’s something I didn’t realize about teaching until you’re in the field is that you’re constantly doing 10 things at once, all the time. You’re answering emails, you’re lesson planning, you’re grading, you’re teaching at the same time you’re reading so it’s just really trying to balance everything that you’re dealt with.

What do you find the most rewarding about teaching?

The most rewarding is whenever I see a student understand something, when I see something clicked for them, or for me, when I see them excited about something, because most of the time when students come to school, they’re like ‘I don’t want to be here’. But when I see someone really get excited about a topic and feel proud of their own work, and know that they’ve succeeded, for me that’s what’s really rewarding.

 How would you  describe your teaching style?

 Flexible. This is hard. I’d say, challenging, because I want to push students. I’m gonna say redemption. Maybe that’s the wrong word but that way students know that I want them to challenge themselves, but also that they have the opportunity to learn and grow from the mistakes, they have the opportunity to improve and really grow from those challenges and from the feedback given to them.

Who was your biggest role model? Did a specific teacher while you were in school influence you to go into education?

That’s challenging. I had a lot of fantastic teachers growing up. But honestly, who influenced me the most is probably my mom. My mom was a teacher as well. She taught elementary school. She was just such a positive role model and impacted my life. Constantly as we were growing up, she made sure that over the summer we were reading, that we were constantly growing and she would go through our assignments with us and help me edit my papers in college, so she is one that really just seen her perseverance and her dedication, and how much of an impact she left on my brother and I made me want to leave the same impact on other kids I encounter so she’s the best.

What are your greatest strengths as a teacher?

My biggest strength, I think I’m very outgoing, maybe a little too much sometimes. I performed my whole life. I did theater, I did show choir, all of that and so I love speaking in front of crowds. I am completely okay with acting like a goofball and laughing at myself. I hope that I’m engaging and really open in my lessons. And I really try to make it a point to get to know every single student, to really be empathetic to what they’re going through and understand who they are as people rather than just names on a seating chart.

What are your biggest weaknesses as a teacher?

One thing is that I feel like I’ve adapted. I definitely was a bit of a perfectionist in college and high school growing up. I liked to stick to the plans so again, learning how to really be flexible has been something that I’ve had to adapt too. And also sometimes I can be a bit of a people pleaser. So, learning not to stretch myself to that sometimes, it’s something I have to learn.

How do you like teaching in a school as big as CHS?

It has been different. I grew up in a high school that was much, much smaller. So at first I was really intimidated by it, but I loved it. For me, it’s just there’s so much to be involved in, which I think is great, so there’s always something for everyone, all these activities going on football games, choir concerts and so it’s fun seeing my students have so many opportunities to be involved and also opportunities for me as a teacher to be involved in and really explore all these interests which is fun.

What were you the most nervous about on the first day of school?

I was nervous about everything, I was petrified.(The) most nervous (I was) about it is just making that initial impression, hoping that you can connect with the students and that they like you, that they understand you’re there to care for them. I was nervous right off the bat, making that good first impression being able to make connections with each and every student was really what I was nervous about.

What is one lesson you would want your students to take with them?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. You’re gonna make mistakes in life, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but  use them as life lessons. Don’t beat yourself up just because you made a mistake, use that as an opportunity to grow and learn from those mistakes and try again.

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