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Back-to-School: Meet A Few of Our Favorite Teachers

It’s back-to-school season, and while we know this year will be different, we want to celebrate all the hard work teachers do for us. And part of that hard work is being on their feet all day. That’s why we’re proud to offer a year-round Teacher Discount Program—educators enjoy 20% off Birdies shoes—so they can look and feel great while teaching, with best-in-class style and ultimate comfort. To welcome the new school year (whether that means virtual lessons or in-person classrooms), we thought we’d introduce you to a few of our favorite teachers, who also happen to be big fans of Birdies. 

Photo credit: Shaquita Basileo

Teacher Name: Ms. Basileo

Where You Teach: Shepherdstown, WV

Grade Levels: 1st through 12th Grades

Subjects: Math and HS Lead Teacher

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: My favorite moments, oddly enough, happen outside of the classroom—a mom sending a photo of her child teaching his grandparents about the Fibonacci sequence, finding a note shoved in my bag from a student once I get home, or seeing a former student in their workplace excited to share that I was once their teacher. Knowing that I’ve impacted their lives, beyond the subject of math, is incredibly rewarding. Education is a second career choice for me and I only wish I’d discovered my love for teaching sooner. My favorite memory in teaching, however, occurred with a group of three young women who were taking Algebra 1 & 2, the highest math classes in our K-8 program. These young ladies were driven, brilliant, and fun to teach. One day, we were working through problem sets together and time had gotten away from us. I looked at the clock and around the floor—we were halfway through their recess, huddled together on the floor with books and notebooks sprawled about, and having a blast. They did not want to stop working on math—I had to take their books and put them out!

Piece of advice you give your students: Be yourself, believe in yourself, and have the courage to live the life you love. My students know my life’s journey—I am open and authentic with them, so they know I live the advice I share with them.

One thing your students have taught you: I’m not the smartest in the room. I always knew this, obviously, but as the adult, teacher, and the leader of your classroom, that’s supposed to be the expectation, right? So wrong. Moving to West Virginia, I’ve learned so much about nature, gardening, outdoor activities, and Appalachian culture from my students. I’m not the expert on every topic, and they respect that I’m willing to learn from and with them. This past year, one of my students asked if we could read a book together, unrelated to math, about racism and bias. Education is more than subject matter—it's truly about relationships.

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: Confident and cute! No matter the grade, I’m on my feet A LOT—helping students, lecturing at the board, and up and down the hallway to the supply room or copier. And let’s not forget recess duty! Conversely, you never know when you’ll be pulled into a meeting or conference. Comfort is non-negotiable, but neither is style! 

woman wearing cheetah flats with feet up on desk

Photo credit: Taisha Martin

Teacher Name: Dr. Martin

Where You Teach: Baltimore, MD

Grade Levels: 6th through 8th Grades and Graduate School

Subject: School Counseling 

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: My favorite teaching moments always come at the end of each semester. Some students come in with their own insecurities about learning, and throughout the course, they become more vocal and confident in their abilities. It’s amazing to see the confidence and individual growth of students.

Piece of advice you give your students: One thing I always tell my students is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Middle school can be a challenging time that brings up a lot of anxiety with students. Those anxious and nervous feelings are usually associated with feeling uncomfortable. In order to ease that discomfort, I encourage them to lean into those uncomfortable feelings and take control. The same applies when I am working with graduate students, which brings about its own stressors.

One thing your students have taught you: Besides all of the social media and Fort Nite crazes, my students have taught me the importance of resilience and perseverance. It is rewarding to see how some of my students with social and school anxiety have adjusted to the new normal and thrived both academically and emotionally with the abrupt change to our traditional way of learning.

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: Birdies make me feel stylish, without sacrificing fashion for comfort. As a professor, I spend hours on my feet lecturing, so having a flexible shoe is a necessity! They’re comfortable enough to throw on with my PJs for virtual teaching and counseling, and they're stylish enough to turn any daytime outfit into an evening show stopper.

teacher wearing taupe leather flats in her virtual classroom

Photo credit: @moniquesoderstrom

Teacher Name: Ms. Ulivi

Where You Teach: East Los Angeles, CA

Grade Levels: 9th & 11th Grades

Subjects: English and AP English Language and Composition 

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: I have been at the same school in the heart of East Los Angeles for my entire career. Over that time, I have been able to celebrate the many accomplishments of my students and help others overcome unimaginable adversity. My favorite teaching moment came when I helped a student, who seemed very discouraged about the writing process, to finally find their voice through writing. I live for those moments. 

Piece of advice you give your students: I always tell my students to be confident in their abilities. If they believe in themselves, others will, too. 

One thing your students have taught you: My students are incredibly resilient and they have taught me many lessons—the most powerful of those being relentless optimism, love, empathy, and hard work. 

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: I rarely sit down when I teach. I’m usually fluttering around the classroom from student to student. I need a flat that is functional, comfortable, and stylish. Birdies make me feel confident and comfortable all day long. 

teacher wearing black velvet flats with feet up on desk

Photo credit: @honeybeesandieps

Teacher Name: Mrs. Fruhauf

Where You Teach: Long Island, NY

Grade Levels: Kindergarten through 2nd Grade

Subject: Elementary Special Education

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: Working with students with special needs, you learn that your days are filled with countless moments worth cherishing. I remember teaching one of my students how to play soccer. After a few weeks, we walked into the gym, he found the soccer ball, set up his kick, and kicked the ball into the net without any prompting or assistance. It became so real to me then how special what we do as educators really is.

Piece of advice you give your students: As a special education teacher who teaches students with intensive needs, I always encourage parents and students to celebrate every victory. Every goal achieved, every skill mastered, every independent task is a celebration.

One thing your students have taught you: My students have taught me compassion and patience, and they have challenged me to see the world through their eyes instead of always trying to get them to see it through mine.

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: When I’m teaching in my Birdies, I feel comfortable and confident. They complete my outfit with the perfect, classy finishing touch while also providing comfort for a day on my feet!

teacher in classroom wearing cognac leather flats

Photo credit: @gracefulandfree

Teacher Name: Mrs. Bond

Where You Teach: Marietta, Georgia

Grade Levels: 9th & 12th Grades 

Subjects: Social Studies, World History, and AP Human Geography 

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: There was a time when something happened that really discouraged me. I was feeling very down, and my students took notice. They snuck into my classroom before school started, covered my whiteboard with motivational words, brought me breakfast, and had a shoebox full of 50 notecards with encouraging words that they had all written. Now, I always write my students encouraging notecards for every test, one note per student, per test, each semester. To see an entire class do that for me—that is a moment I will never forget! 

Piece of advice you give your students: The thing that I always tell my students is to never underestimate their potential for greatness, to never stop looking for the good in the world. To find the magic, to be the kindness. And never stop working to pursue their dreams. And that I will always be there for them, rooting them on and believing in them every step of the way. 

One thing your students have taught you: My students have taught me to believe in every single student, regardless of who they are or their ability level. The most important thing that I have learned is how to see my students differently. To see them for their potential, not their setbacks, see them for their strengths, not their weaknesses. Finally, they have taught me to believe in the future because the generation of students I’ve taught has convinced me they have the intellect, the creativity, and the empathy the world needs for change.

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: Birdies bring out the best of me in the classroom. I strongly believe in allowing fashion and your outfit to control your mindset during the day. Usually, on my longest and most challenging days in the classroom, I go into the day wearing my favorites, and that always includes my Birdies! They fit so comfortably and truly allow me to walk each step with confidence. 

closeup of slate suede flats

Photo credit: Tina Newman

Teacher Name: Mrs. Newman

Where You Teach: Gilbert, AZ

Grade Level: 7th Grade

Subject: English 

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: A student found out unexpectedly that her family was moving and that it was her last day in class. She was pretty upset, so before she left, the entire class surrounded her and gave her a group hug. To see 30 kids be so kind and supportive was beautiful.

Piece of advice you give your students: Always remember that it’s okay to be wrong and to make mistakes. It’s an important part of the learning process. Don’t let it discourage you; keep trying!

One thing your students have taught you: Never underestimate what kids are capable of. They possess insight and wisdom that would blow your mind.

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: If I was wearing any other shoes, I don’t think I’d still be standing.

 

Dr. Melinda B. Johnson in her classroom. Photo credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Dr. Melinda B. Johnson

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD 

Grade Levels: Preschool through 5th Grade

Subject: Principal

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: My favorite memory at J.P. Ryon Elementary is when students came to school dressed in their own customized clothing with our school mantra embroidered on them, "When they go low, we fly H.I.G.H. ~ J.P. Ryon Cardinals demonstrate Honor! Integrity! Grit! and Hope!" Also, when a kindergarten student, along with many other students, recited our Cardinal scholar creed without reading it from the board. Our students really take pride in who they are as J.P. Ryon Cardinal scholars and future leaders. They recite our Cardinal creed each day with great dignity.

Piece of advice you give your students: Always remember to take pride in who you are. Reach for the stars and you will land amongst the clouds; the sky is not the limit and you are capable of great things. Surround yourself with positive images and individuals who have a growth mindset. We believe in each of you and we know our future is in your great hands. Always remember what it means to fly H.I.G.H.! Even through distance learning, we can do virtually anything together.

One thing your students have taught you: My students have taught me to greet each day with a smile and refreshed mindset to overcome any challenges. They taught me the value of remembering to focus on relationships first. I especially enjoyed greeting them each morning as they arrived at school. Now that we're virtual, I truly miss that connection.

How Birdies make you feel when you're teaching: Birdies make me feel like I can literally fly. They're so comfortable and they make my rounds throughout the school building extremely comfortable as I check on teachers who are connecting with students virtually. I wish I had these earlier in my career. When I stand up, I instantly feel great comfort and ready to conquer anything. Birdies really support the J.P. Ryon Leadership Team in taking flight this year with our new way of distance teaching and learning. It is like building the plane while flying it...we're prepared to continue to fly H.I.G.H. in first-class comfort.

Mrs. Barnett Vice Principal Photo credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Mrs. Barnett

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD

Grade levels: Preschool through 5th Grade

Subject: Vice Principal

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: One of my favorite teaching memories is when a first grade student gave me a handwritten sympathy card. The card had two roses and a heart on the front. Inside it said, when I felt sad, to remember that my loved one will always be in my heart. Such beautiful words from such a small soul.

Piece of advice you give your students: A piece of advice that I give my students is that tomorrow is a new day. Whatever happened the day before is in your past. You always have tomorrow as a way of having a great day on purpose. New Day! Fresh Start!

One thing your students have taught you: The importance of building relationships. They respect you more when they know how much you care. Taking the time to show up to games, knowing their siblings’ and pets’ names means a lot.

How Birdies make you feel when you're teaching: Comfortable! Comfortable!  Comfortable! These are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I'm on my feet a lot and wearing Birdies makes me feel like I'm walking on clouds. If my feet could talk, I'm sure they would agree!

Kelly Rodriguez in her Heron Black velvet flatsPhoto credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Kelly Rodriguez 

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD 

Grade Levels: Kindergarten through 5th Grades 

Subject: I am the Learning Resource teacher, so I work with students with either the gifted or enrichments curriculum, as well as manage all the state and county testing for my building.   

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: The conversations that develop when students are relaxed and comfortable in class are very insightful. Students feel that their thoughts and ideas are safe, and they share openly. Their ideas and beliefs blow me away sometimes. 

Piece of advice you give your students: I like to remind my students that tomorrow is another day. Today might have been rough, but the sun will rise and I tomorrow is a clean slate. Grudges and anger hold you down, so let’s work it out today and move on. 

One thing your students have taught you: My students have taught me that it’s ok for their ideas to be bigger than mine. Working with gifted students has allowed me to see that today’s kids have amazing ideas that far surpass my own. 

How Birdies make you feel when you're teaching:  I spend most of my day running from classroom to classroom. My Birdies allow me to do this easily. My feet feel like they can keep up with me for a change.  They don’t hurt, and I’m not looking to take my shoes off every chance I get. 

Yushica Walthour in her cheetah flatsPhoto credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Yushica Walthour 

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD 

Grade Levels: Kindergarten through 5th Grades 

Subject: Librarian turned Principal Secretary 

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: As the librarian, every day was adventure—because reading unlocks the path to many adventures. By far my favorite was allowing the students to become the authors of their own stories, standing tall... sharing their writings...and telling their stories. 

Piece of advice you give your students: Never let experiences define who you are. Kindness is KEY. Education is WEALTH.  

One thing your students have taught you: My students teach me to embrace my creativity.

Lauren Washington in her Cheetah StarlingsPhoto credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Lauren Washington

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD

Grade Levels: Pre-K through 5th Grade

Subject: Reading

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: One of my favorite teaching moments that I have been fortunate to experience time and time again is watching my students do with ease what they once could not do at all. I was a first grade classroom teacher for 18 years and each year I would welcome a new group of friends fresh out of kindergarten. While some of them were already reading, most were just learning some basic words and decoding short sentences. As we moved through the school year, I continued to challenge my students and raise expectations for performance. Without fail, by the end of each school year, I had a group of small friends who were fluent readers and who had developed a skill that would make it possible for them to be and do anything they desired in their lives.

Piece of advice you give your students: I encourage my students to always put forth their best effort. We can all expect to fall short of our expectations sometimes, but trying is the only way we grow. We often get a kick out of looking back at work from earlier in the school year to see just how far we have come.

One thing your students have taught you:  My students have taught me not to take myself too seriously. While the work we do is serious, being able to find humor in some of the things that happen and the things that get said is so important to building a class community. I want my students to learn and grow academically, but I also want them to feel joy each day.

How Birdies make you feel when you're teaching:  Birdies make me feel like I can go the extra mile when I’m teaching. They make it possible for me to focus on the work at hand and not my aching feet. I honestly didn’t know a pair of shoes could feel so good on my feet.

Laura in Taupe Leather Flats.Photo credit: J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Teacher Name: Laura Metz

Where You Teach: Waldorf, MD

Grade Levels: Kindergarten through 5th Grades

Subject: Math

One of your favorite teaching moments: I read to my classes from a variety of books each year. The first time I read The Tale of Despereaux to my students is when I fell in love with story time. Each and every student could stay still and calm throughout an entire chapter, waiting for each word of the story to be read out loud. It was magical and powerful. The moment you look across your whole class and see nothing but engagement is the moment you know you’ve achieved not just a skill but instead a passion for your students. 

Piece of advice you give your students: Growth mindset is the number one thought you should consistently maintain. Effort, grit ,and hope all create opportunities, and a growth mindset keeps you in a state of mind where those opportunities can flourish!

One thing your students have taught you: Life is worth living and fighting for no matter how hard the circumstances you face might be. 

How Birdies make you feel when you're teaching: They make me feel confident and comfortable. They feel like an extension of myself because they fit so well and feel so good. 

Teacher Name: Brittany Sinitch

Where You Teach: Florida

Grade Levels: 6th through 8th Grades

Subjects: Writing and Leadership

One of your favorite teaching moments or memories: I would have to say spending time with my students year-round as we fundraised for our Dance Marathon program at school. All of the money we raised went to our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital and we worked so hard that year. The students had no idea, but we raised more than $100,000 for the kids. When it was time to do our total reveal on-stage, I lined all of them up and gave them their numbers to hold up, but then at the end, I slipped into the line-up and held the final sign that would reveal the total we raised that year. When the students turned around and saw how much we raised on the screen, they were hysterical and just so excited. We have been through so much together, and that moment felt like such a moment of strength and resilience. We all hugged and cried together—it was a moment I will never forget.  

Piece of advice you give your students: A big one recently is that it is okay to not be okay. Sometimes you have to let yourself break and feel those emotions before you can put those pieces back together. It is possible to find what makes us unbreakable, but that doesn't mean we always have to be strong. Students are so much more than just students; they balance so much. I want them to know that when things get hard, it will not last forever. They are resilient and they can overcome the toughest of times.  

One thing your students have taught you: My students taught me that teaching is so much more than just grammar and mastering a concept. It is building relationships and helping one another grow not only as learners, but as individuals as well. Teaching is building a community and a safe space where you don't have to feel so alone. I am so grateful my students taught me this, because it has made the profession even more special when I remember that. 

How Birdies make you feel when you’re teaching: They’re like walking on clouds. I know getting out of bed in the morning can be tough when we are #TeacherTired, but I am telling you, it's like a personal bed for your feet (lol). As a teacher, you are constantly on the go or standing on your feet. Even when I am teaching virtually, I am standing up and trying my best to engage my students. I need something comfortable and easy to throw on in the morning—that’s exactly what Birdies are for. It also doesn't hurt that they are so cute and go with every outfit.

Share the love by passing along news about our Teacher Discount Program to all the teachers in your life, so they can shop our collection of stylish, comfortable shoes just in time for back-to-school season. 

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