Hannah Witty is our Early Childhood Coordinator. A recent graduate of Abilene Christian University, Hannah teaches in our preschool and PreK-1st grade afterschool classrooms.
As a teacher, I can’t help but anticipate the moment at the beginning of each term when I will finally get to meet the kids I’ll be working with. After working at Fortress as an intern and as the reading lab coordinator, I was especially looking forward to working with the PreK-1st graders exclusively for the first time this summer. I was excited, but also nervous to meet the students I would be spending my whole summer with, particularly the PreK students who I’d be meeting for the very first time.
They say first impressions are lasting, and 4-year old Bre’Niyah is no exception. From the moment she stepped foot into my classroom, I knew we were in for a year of fun, for lack of a better word. That girl has a personality that stands taller than her 3 foot 7 inch frame. After the first week of Summer JAM, which included some temper tantrums, some defiance, and even a little hair-pulling, I knew we needed to make a game plan for Bre’Niyah to be successful at Fortress. The first step was picking a good “buddy” for her (buddies are volunteers who come with youth groups to spend a week doing mission work with us). I paired Bre’Niyah with strong women, often mothers, to be her buddies for the week. With their motherly touch and my education background, we worked together to provide consistent, loving structure for her. Slowly but surely, Bre’Niyah started to figure out that we were going to hold her accountable for the choices she made.
I feel so privileged to be a part of Bre’Niyah’s growth here at Fortress. She’s learned to keep her hands to herself. She’s learned how to calm herself down when she feels upset. She rejoices when she learns something new or masters a concept. She walks into my classroom every day, flashes her wide, world-class smile, gives me a hug, and tells me about her day at school. It’s amazing how teachable a four-year old can be.
There are still tough days for her. The reality is that teaching isn’t always going to be a walk in the park. There aren’t always these magical “ah-ha” moments, but within those tough moments you get to see flickers of the progress a student has made. Bre’Niyah is a shining example of that progress.
As a recent graduate with a degree in education, I could talk all day long about the who’s and what’s of classroom management, but the why’s and how’s take time and practice. Working with Bre’Niyah has shown me how important it is to provide loving and consistent discipline. It’s still hard to be consistent sometimes because in the back of my head I think, “Maybe you’re being too hard on this kid.” But at the end of the day I would rather help Bre’Niyah and all of my students understand that there are consequences for their actions, as opposed to learning later in their life when there might be a much heavier consequence. And isn’t that what God does for each of his children?
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, for the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the child he delights in.” – Proverbs 3:11-12