27 years into her career, Jodi Mangum continues to feel the magic of teaching 1st grade
Throughout her 27 years of teaching 1st grade, Jodi Mangum has seen a lot of changes to the curriculum and the state core. However, one thing that has been consistent over the years is the magic of first grade. “When I first started, I taught the children to read. Now, that happens in kindergarten before they come to me. So, I just reinforce and expand on what they know,” Mangum expressed. “But there's still a magic that happens, and it doesn't matter where they are in their learning. They just take flight, blossom, and bloom, and I love it. It is so much fun to be in a first-grade classroom and watch that.”
As a child, Mangum was always the kid who loved school. She had excellent teachers, many still in our school district, who sparked a love of teaching in her. After school, she would come home and play school, creating her own classroom where she was always the teacher. This passion sparked her long, incredible teaching career.
Mangum has had the opportunity to teach at several schools around the valley. Her career began at North Park Elementary School. When the boundaries were reconfigured, Mangum went to Greenville Elementary School and taught there for seven years. She then started teaching at Cedar Ridge when it switched from a middle school to an elementary school.
In every school where she has taught, Mangum credits a team of teachers and other staff for helping her grow and improve her craft. She explained that, without a cohesive and dedicated team, teaching can be challenging. “A strong team makes everything so much better. It makes you better and helps you become better prepared,” Mangum explained. “The kids are definitely the ones who really benefit, because they need all the tricks that you can throw at them, and a team is how you do that.”
According to Mangum, when you work as a team, you can share materials and ideas, problem-solve and brainstorm, and support each other through the ups and downs of teaching. “We can rely on each other, pull from each other, and support each other. I feel like if you have a team, you can bounce ideas off each other and pull from each other’s strengths,” Mangum explained. “So if I’m weak in an area, someone else is going to be strong in that area. We can balance each other out.”
To Mangum, the content is essential, but the most crucial thing she wants her students to learn is how to love school. “If they don’t want to be here, they won’t learn anything,” Mangum said. At the start of each school year, Mangum talks to parents and expresses the critical role they have in helping their children love school. For example, rather than asking their kids how their day was, Mangum challenges parents to ask, “What was your favorite thing you did today?” By the end of the day, kids are exhausted and ready to be done. Mangum believes that as parents focus on their students’ favorite parts of the day, kids can look back at school and see the positive, helping them come to love school.
Mangum strives to foster a love for school in her students by creating a positive atmosphere in her classroom. For example, something her class does each week is “Thankful Thursday.” Every Thursday, they gather as a class and share things they are each thankful for. Mangum found that after a couple of months, students started to express gratitude for other kids in the class. “If you make them think about their favorite parts of the day, then it's positive, and we think that way. And I try to keep things positive in the classroom. I try to have them look out for each other and build a team feeling amongst themselves,” Mangum explained. “I feel like that helps, and once we build all of that, the learning can come very easily.”
Cedar Ridge Principal Amy Ivie is grateful for Mangum’s contribution to the school. “Jodi knows her students individually. She is a great example of a teacher that gives her all in everything she does. Her colleagues love and appreciate her and feel that she is very deserving,” Ivie said.