For Dana Vogel, coming to Marco Island was like going back to her childhood stomping grounds of Bethany Beach, DE.
“I have family that live on Marco Island,” she says. “Marco Island reminds me of Bethany Beach, DE. When I lived there, I remember not having to lock our doors at night and being a smaller, tight-knit community. I feel safe on Marco Island just as I did when I lived in Bethany Beach. It’s a feeling that unfortunately is not so easy to find anymore.”
That’s why she jumped at the chance to teach fourth grade at Tommie Barfield Elementary School, after spending a year commuting from Naples to a Title I school in North Fort Myers. She taught at the school for a total of three years.
“Once I learned that there was an opportunity to come to Tommie Barfield, I was finally ready (and incredibly excited) to make the change,” the Florida Southwestern graduate adds. “This community is incredibly supportive, and it’s wonderful to know that the community cares and is so involved with the futures of our children. I am so grateful for the support we have here at Tommie Barfield.”
Coastal Breeze News sat down with Vogel to find out more about her, her passion for teaching and what makes her one of TBE’s new student favorites.
Q: Tell me about your favorite teacher as a child?
A: I loved my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Hill. I have lots of memories of acting out plays that dealt with American History. I still remember writing and acting out a play about the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. She was always smiling and cared very much about all of her students.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
A: I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in elementary school. I’ve always had a love of learning and passion for teaching. Initially, when I enrolled in college, I thought I wanted to pursue a career that made more money, but early on, I took a course called Introduction to Education where I had to spend 15 field hours in a school observing teachers. That experience showed me that my passion for teaching hadn’t faded and I’d regret it if I didn’t follow my true passion for teaching. I quickly changed my major and never looked back.
Q: Why elementary school?
A: Elementary-aged children are learning foundational skills that will last them a lifetime. I feel that I can have a positive impact on these students and hopefully instill a love of learning that will follow them throughout their lives and also provide them the opportunity to have a strong foundational skill set in all curriculum areas. I especially enjoy the upper elementary grades because students are able to do more in terms of more complicated projects, but they are still at an age where creativity is crucial. I also love the chapter books for students in this age group.
Q: What three words best describe your teaching style, and why?
A: Honest, caring and challenging. I am honest with my students because I want to develop a level of trust with them that is reciprocal. I spend many hours with these students throughout the school year. It’s important to me to create a learning environment where students feel safe and respected so they can be themselves and share their thoughts knowing they will be accepted. I believe this environment begins with honesty and trust.
I would also describe my teaching style as caring, because I am an advocate for every one of my students. I am their biggest fan, and I am there to support them through their triumphs and struggles. I make a point everyday to say good morning to each student as the walk in. I want my students to know that they are intelligent, important and capable. Caring about students is a necessity for a teacher.
The third word I chose is challenging. I am very fortunate to work with students who enjoy learning and being challenged. I am always pushing my students to reach for grasping the fifth grade standards, reading more AR books than they’ve ever read before, and not accepting anything but their personal best work. Students respond really well to an appropriate level of challenge that is within their comfort zone without becoming overwhelming or frustrating.
Q: What are your goals for your first year at TBE?
A: This year I am working toward obtaining my gifted endorsement. It is a series of five classes provided by the county. My goal is to complete all five this school year. I just began my third course this week. It has been a passion of mine to work with students in the gifted program because I have fond memories of my gifted program in elementary school.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
A: I am a person who feels that I have control over my own life, and I own all the decisions I make. I would say in terms of inspiration, my grandmother (Mommom is what I call her) is my inspiration. My grandmother came from a poor family in Philadelphia. My grandmother and grandfather had their first of six children beginning at age 16. My grandmother went on to earn her college degree while raising her children. She eventually earned her doctorate degree in Education, and currently, she volunteers as a guardian ad litem for children in need in southern New Jersey. She also wisely invested her teacher’s earnings and worked very hard to get to where she is now. She always offers me incredible words of wisdom as both my grandmother and a retired teacher. I am trying to convince her to move here so I can see her more often!
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
A: I have always wanted Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison to be at my dinner table because I want them to see how far technology has come in our society. I would also like to include Harriet Tubman to show her how she helped transform our society by risking her life time and time again. I think it would be interesting to invite Vice President Biden as well. I would invite him because he lived in Delaware, and I think he would add some comedy and positivity to the conversation. He would also be able to discuss current events. Finally, I’d invite Thomas Jefferson because I’d ask him to discuss the meaning behind certain parts of the constitution. Courts are often asked to interpret what our founding fathers meant in the Constitution. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could ask them what they meant and if they would still feel the same way in today’s society?
Q: What one personal achievement are you most proud?
A: I graduated college with the highest honors, Summa Cum Laude. Because I worked full time and went to school at night, I had to dedicate all my work sick and vacation time to completing hours upon hours of field service in the classroom. I didn’t take a vacation for about four years. College took me six and a half years to complete. However, I only had two B’s and all A’s throughout the duration of my college degree, and when I graduated with highest honors, it was confirmation of my hard work and dedication. I learned throughout those years how to balance tasks and how to work hard. It changed me as a person for the better and gave me some needed discipline. I look back now, and I can’t believe I actually did that!
Q: How would you like students and parents to remember you?
A: I want them to simply remember me as someone who deeply cared about every single student, and I hope I had a positive impact on their lives in some way.
Q: Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
A: I absolutely agree with this statement! One of the attorneys I worked for once said, 99 percent of people are good. It’s the 1 percent of people that ruin things for everyone else. I couldn’t agree with him more based on me experiences in life. I always encourage my students to do the right thing, and I believe that most of the time they do. When I was 12 years old, I forgot my wallet in a public restroom in Bethany Beach. I checked at the police station, and an upstanding citizen had returned my wallet with all $14 inside. I think that incident always stuck with me, and I believe that most people would do the same thing. The golden rule, ‘Treat others how you want to be treated’, is how I try to live life, and I hope most others do as well.