Interview: Mrs. Russell

Mrs.+Russell
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Back to Article

Interview: Mrs. Russell

Mrs. Russell

Mrs. Russell

| Mackenzie Dodson

Mrs. Russell

| Mackenzie Dodson

| Mackenzie Dodson

Mrs. Russell

- Hope Dawson, Editor

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How has your experience at Norman North been so far?

So far it’s actually been pretty incredible. I really had no idea what to expect with my first year teaching. But so far, just the staff, the students, everything; it really feels like an awesome fit for me to be here, and I’m excited about it!

 

How did you choose North for a teaching position?

Well, I actually went, my whole career K through 12 going to Moore Public Schools. So, I was very familiar with Norman’s School District. Part of it was just that the job was available. Part of it is also that I have the unique opportunity of getting to teach with one of my former [high school] teachers, Lori Crawford. I was a sophomore in her class at Moore. And so it kind of just ended up working out that a job was available here to co-teach with her. And then I applied and got the job. And yeah, it just really worked out.

| Mackenzie Dodson
Mrs. Russell

What is it like teaching with one of your like former teachers?

It’s actually very easy, it’s cool because I am very familiar with Lori Crawford, we have worked together now for over 10 years; because even after I graduated and while I was in college, I would come back and help her speech and debate teams; I would actually come and help out here before I even knew that it was an option for me to have a job here. We work really well together and so that’s awesome. And I got to learn a lot about teaching, while I was a student with her. So we know how to work well with each other. And I don’t know, it’s really easy.

 

What made you decide to lean towards the position involving the arts?

So, I always knew ever since I was in kindergarten, I always wanted to be a teacher. But up until my senior year of high school, actually, I thought I wanted to teach math. Yeah, because I was really good at math. I liked explaining everything, but I had really an epiphany moment my senior year of high school when I just realized that, I don’t know, like, I had a moment where I realized the impact of using your voice, and how that matters, and also through going like getting my teaching degree at UCO. I figured out that the only thing that kids are actually more afraid of in school than math is public speaking. So, it just kind of worked because I always wanted to teach something that people thought was difficult and try to make it easier for kids. Yeah, and I really truly believe in the importance of public speaking and how using your voice and being able to use your voice effectively can change your world and change the world.

| Mackenzie Dodson
Mrs. Russell

What has your experience with the arts been like for you personally?

So, up until I was in high school I really didn’t have much experience with the Fine Arts. I did dance competitively, but, besides that, I had never really taken other fine arts’ classes. My freshman year of high school was my first opportunity with that, and it completely shifted my worldview.  Everything else in my life started to click, and I started to make connections between my history classes and my math classes and science and English. Everything started to relate to each other after I started taking Speech and Debate classes. Everything kind of started to click with me, and I realize the importance of how this subject is great, not just for kids who love Speech and Debate or drama or anything else, but it really is. Building on those concrete skills of connecting everything else of taking these core classes that you have and then connecting them to a bigger purpose, outside of just completing assignments. Yeah. My relationship with the arts beyond that is also me personally. It’s the only way I know how to express myself, right, the idea of  if I was having a bad day, right, like directing the one-act, I could channel that, like, energy or those thoughts and I could talk about it with the cast right and I could, like; I had moments with them where we all just like we were able to channel all that energy from whatever was going on, into a common goal. Right, so the arts for me, one that’s an outlet, I can have, but then taking that a step further, it’s an outlet that I can teach my students. 

 

How do you like to express the importance of the arts in the schools, especially whenever there are times where schools don’t really see the importance?

So, yeah, so asking about how I continue to advocate for, like, the importance of Fine Arts. Well, one, I am extremely lucky to be in Norman public schools because during my practice and getting my teaching degree, I got to be involved in many other school districts and their fine arts, and not to name any names, but Norman, by far, has the best representation for Fine Arts in the state of Oklahoma. I can say that without a doubt in my mind. How, so I guess, how I can continue to advocate for that in this district, one, the district makes it easy for me because they already see the value in fine arts, but to just, like, doing interviews like this continuing to get representation at a school-wide basis, and then also just: I teach three classes that aren’t competitive Fine Arts but are still considered fine art, so I teach a film as a literature class, as well as two speech communication classes. So,I guess the other way is just kind of integrating speech and debate, and just fine arts in general, into those classes where it can, right, and just making sure that those classes, as well as my advisory; yes they know about the sports events that are going on, and they know about semi-formal and everything else, but they also get the opportunity to know about what speech and debate is doing. And they also have the opportunity to know about our musical Fiddler on the Roof that’s happening later this month. Just making sure that the students know about all the activities that are going on and not even just the ones that Miss Crawford and I teach, but about, like, choir and orchestra and everything else.

| Mackenzie Dodson
Mrs. Russell

 

What persuaded you into going into teaching in the first place?

Well, like I said earlier, I always, and I don’t know why or how, but I always wanted to be a teacher, right?  I found myself in early elementary school. Genuinely, and this sounds so cheesy but it’s 1,000% true, my best days during recess are the days where I was helping my classmates in subjects, right, particularly math, I always thought that I was going to be a math teacher, because, one, it feels good to do something that you’re good at, and I was good at math. But I also like taking complicated issues and explaining them in a way that makes it click for someone. Nothing makes me feel as good as seeing that “ah-ha” moment on a kid’s face. And that’s not just about them learning a new, you know, debate argument or something else, but being able to see a kid who didn’t think that they could do something, do it. And then realize that they did it.

What was coaching, one-act like? what did you learn? Where do you go from here with directing being your first year?

Directing one-act was so many adjectives. It was an adventure it, there were times when it was rough on all of us. I think a lot of us had a bit of a learning curve. Me, being a first-year teacher, on top of a first-year director, because I’d never been involved in one act before this year, I didn’t compete at it in high school. So, it was just, it was a lot for everyone involved, especially because the subject matter of 26 Pebbles is pretty serious.  It is about the mass shooting that happened in Newtown, Connecticut. But it [the play] was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my entire life because I got to see 12 people take these words on a page and turn it into a truly, like, moving story, right? Because that’s all a play is when you first get it in your hands for auditions, it’s just words on a page. But we really band together and through many tears, and many, like, rough rehearsals, we got to turn it into a story that truly changed people’s lives. And that experience was worth all of it.

| Mackenzie Dodson
Mrs. Russell

Going from being a debater yourself. What is it like transitioning from actually competing and doing speech and debate, and now coaching it?

It’s harder than I thought it would be. To be honest, especially because speech and debate is one of those fields where it evolves very quickly right? The arguments and the strategies that worked when I was in high school, aren’t the same strategies that work now. So it’s, there’s a learning curve to go with that. There’s also, I find myself saying things to my students that I used to be annoyed at when my coach Ms. Crawford would say things like that to me. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a kid about a round, and I get a flashback to when I was on the other side right? So, it’s nice because I’m not that far removed from the competitive sphere. And so that does give me some insight, and that helps with reliability to the debaters into the program. But yeah, things have changed a lot since I was in high school and I think that’s good, I think one thing that hasn’t changed is how, gosh, how smart, and how, like, I don’t even know the word for it, how really powerful these kids are, right, with the things that they advocate for. I get to see a kid who gets their new resolution that will debate for this month. And then, even after the month is over I see them starting initiatives in the community and talking about, Okay, well, like right now, for instance, we’re debating in Lincoln-Douglas about whether fossil fuels should continue to get subsidies from the government. And these kids are learning so much about it, and then I have quite a few students who were actually part of the Environmental Club here at Norman North. So getting to see them take basically their assignment from this class, and then implementing it in their club; and then also using that information to change our community. It’s awesome

 

What are you excited about in these next coming years, especially like this being your first year teaching then going into more and more years?

I’m excited to get to know more people here. I’m excited to become more involved in the community here. Because I got this job, I actually moved to Norman. Yeah, so, getting to know people here at Norman North in the district and then just in the town, as a whole, and then I’m just excited to, you know, plant roots here. Yeah, I think it would be awesome because I remember when I was in school, and I know that Jim Ryan who just retired from here, he was like a charter member of this school, right? He’d been here since the school opened. The idea of teachers getting lucky, and then where they get hired is, like, where they live out their career. I don’t know, I could totally see myself teaching here for decades.

| Mackenzie Dodson
Mrs. Russell