25 Years of BP Teachers of Excellence: Sheilah-Margaret Pothast
As KTVA continues celebrating 25 years of BP honoring outstanding educators in Alaska, we head down to the Kenai Peninsula to check in on a teacher who inspires every day with her important lessons in culture and history.
Sheilah-Margaret Pothast is currently in her 12th year teaching at Skyview Middle School. Pothast teaches American history, health and Spanish. She is also the student council advisor.
She connects the dots, and in doing so, connects with her students.
Whether combining the importance of honoring those who served with history lessons or encouraging students to volunteer through student council, Pothast stresses personal responsibility.
“It’s about having that background so that you can be a good citizen so that you can understand that you contribute to the community in lots of different ways," she said. "Even if you’re not old enough to vote, there's ways to be engaged, there's ways to be involved in making your community a better place and being good stewards.”
Pothast wants her students to be ready for high school and beyond. She looks for creative ways to teach each of her subjects.
Last week, students in her American history class wrote thank you letters to United States military veterans to prepare for Veterans Day.
In Spanish class, a personal subject for Pothast whose mother’s family is Hispanic, she stresses the importance of inclusion with her students.
"These are my people and what I see is a really great opportunity to talk about not just Spanish, Spanish language and culture, but also how important diversity is and how important it is to appreciate diversity,” she said.
On the subject of diversity, Pothast understands each student is different in terms of how they process information. She tailors her lessons to students based on how she thinks they'll best absorb the information.
“As a district we’ve taken on this idea of personalized learning, and meeting kids where they’re at and being able to give kids choices in how they demonstrate their learning in maybe the pace that they need," she said. "Because some of us work faster than others or slower than others, some of us are maybe more comfortable with kind of a standard textbook type of a thing. Other kids are digging online and digital resources.”
The bottom line, Pothast teaches with encouragement and kindness. She also fosters educational growth by setting the bar high for students, making sure they know what she expects from them.
“Their missing assignment from Mrs. Pothast, in the grand scheme of things, is probably not going to be a deal breaker, but it sets a tone and establishes a habit," she explained. "I always tell the kids, 'The habits you develop here either create opportunities for you in the future or they create obstacles for you in the future.' I want them to have habits that create opportunities for them.”
Good citizenship, self-confidence and an appreciation of culture and history, Sheilah-Margaret Pothast works hard every day to let her students know that their futures are bright and they're capable of anything.
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