WT: Happy (almost) 10 year anniversary! What do you enjoy most about teaching at Waters?
Ms. Hooper: When I started at Waters, it felt like I was meant to teach here. The teachers welcome one another with open arms. The garden is an added perk, too— I love gardening in my free time, and it is such a great space for the students.
You must be so happy it’s finally spring! What else do you like to do in your free time?
I really enjoy hiking and doing anything outdoors with my dog, Ollie.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
Yes! I used to play pretend school when I was a kid and loved grading fake papers. Little did I know, that would be one of the things I like the least about teaching today, hehe. I also wanted to be a waitress and still do that in the summers.
Oh, fun—we'll keep an eye out. Anything else your students might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to work in production for music festivals in the summer during college. I worked directly with the film crew, and it was an amazing experience.
How cool! It says a lot about you that you chose teaching—junior high, for that matter—over anything else. How would you describe your own middle school experience?
It was tough. I had just moved from Arizona to Illinois, and making new friends was not easy. I had one good friend at that time, and I really struggled in school.
It sounds like you can definitely relate to a lot of the things your students might be going through. If you could go back and give your junior high self one piece of advice, what would it be?
That it gets so much better after junior high! You will meet friends that you connect with throughout your whole life, and you will learn what you are passionate about and will be able to focus on them in high school and college.
All true. Any advice for parents and caretakers? Helping kids navigate the social media stuff and intense social and academic pressure is one thing, but then you throw puberty into the mix and all bets are off.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a middle schooler today. My advice would be to be sure to take time for family activities without any technology around. Go on a walk, bike ride, camping, hiking, play games...talk! Your children might be mad about it at first, but in the end, those are the moments they will remember forever.
Totally—and we’d be remiss not to say how awesome this age group is, too. As a teacher, it must be very cool to watch them find their voices and begin that process of discovering who they are.
YES! This is truly what I love about teaching middle schoolers. They’re finding themselves and, yes, they can be cruel to each other’s differences at times, but they have so much to say and so many ways to make an impact on the world around them. Seeing them celebrate their uniqueness brings a smile to my face.
Before we let you go, is there any 2021 tween-approved slang we should know about? Last year, it seemed like everything was lit: "Wow, that outfit is lit." Is that completely uncool now? (How do you even keep up?)
I think “lit” is still cool. “On Fleek” maybe? Or is that old now? As you can tell it is hard for me to keep up, too— especially this year!
Thank you Ms. Hooper—your interview was (wait for it…) on fleek.