Mr Taylor's #teachereffect at St Mary's
We want to spend this year celebrating some of our teaching staff who help make St Mary’s School, Cambridge such an inspiring place for girls to learn and flourish. We call it the #teachereffect.
Sadly, we can’t cover all our teaching staff; however, we will be showcasing several over this year in many diverse areas and from across the school, from our Junior School to our Sixth Form. We continue our series with Mr Daniel Taylor.
When did you start at St Mary’s?
I started as a Year 4 Teacher and the Junior School SENCo in the 2016 Autumn Term.
What did you do before you joined?
Originally I wanted to join the United States Marine Corps in 2003, but due to my asthma I was pulled from serving. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I started attending a local university in my home state, Colorado, where I was able to work full-time as a maintenance supervisor to pay for my university degree while attending night school. After completing my undergraduate degree in 2007 I pursued my Masters in Education and obtained my teaching license in the United States to become an Intervention Specialist, working with 4 - 18 year olds with Specific Learning Needs. In 2013, my wife and I moved to England where I worked as a Year 1 teacher in a small independent school near Manchester until our move near Cambridge in 2016.
Were you always interested in special educational needs? What fuelled that interest and why?
During my undergraduate degree, I was keen to become a teacher, but I also was intrigued by counselling. My mother-in-law suggested as a Special Needs Educator I would be able to support children and families both within the school and in a counselling-type capacity. Additionally, having grown up with ADHD, I understood how important it was having teachers who were patient with me and who helped me find the best strategies for me to access the school curriculum. I couldn't be happier with my choice of vocation!
What have been your highlights of working at St Mary’s?
I was interested in joining St Mary's because of my wife. She is a Research Scientist who has worked hard to achieve great things within her field. Having been a witness to the requirements of becoming a female scientist I knew St Mary's was where I wanted to work. I have enjoyed pushing our STEM curriculum in the Junior School, and more importantly, I've been privileged to work with a great team implementing support services and resources for our girls.
Each academic year I focus on a new project to enhance our Learning Support. During my first year at St Mary's I pushed to change the title of our support program from SEN (Special Educational Needs) to LEAP (Learning Enhancement to Achieve Potential). This simple change helped establish a culture of ensuring everyone, from teachers to families, would be part of the learning support process, and it created a more inclusive feel when we merged enrichment programs with support programs.
More recently, LEAP created a new enrichment program known as 'LEAP Pathfinders', an online portal where children can earn digital badges by completing tasks outside of school. This programme offers a chance for all girls of varying abilities to complete projects of interest beyond our core curriculum. Our hope is that children will begin pushing themselves to achieve more in areas they are passionate about, thus growing their understanding of the world around them while further developing their High Performance Learning Skills.
Overall, ensuring that all our girls can successfully access the curriculum in a meaningful way, whether they require additional support or they require more challenging tasks, has been the greatest highlight for me throughout my time at St Mary's Junior School.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
I enjoy many things about teaching, but my greatest joy comes from when children begin sharing the social/emotional skills they've learned in my lessons. Although academics are important, I want my pupils to walk away from my lessons knowing they can accomplish any difficult task as long as they demonstrate great self-discipline, work hard, and have confidence in themselves. I really appreciated when St Mary's moved towards High Performance Learning as this fits perfectly with my teaching philosophy.
In your opinion what are the benefits of teaching SEN in an all-girls environment?
Although special educational needs differs from child to child, girls tend to exhibit different behaviours and attributes from boys which can make identification and support much trickier in a co-educational setting. Focusing on an all-female population can help facilitate identification and support much earlier. Additionally, girls tend to be more supportive of one another. When a child has been struggling due to her needs, more often than not her peers will not judge but rather demonstrate great support for her. I have found the nurturing and caring atmosphere at St Mary’s helps to limit, and in some cases, eliminate stigmas attached to learning difficulties.
What do you like to do in your free time when you are not teaching?
I am an avid traveller, backpacker, and runner. My wife and I run multiple mountain marathons a year, and we return to Colorado every summer to explore the backcountry and hike many of the 4,300 metre peaks that reside there. Recently, we trekked up Mt Kilimanjaro which was a wonderful adventure. Overall, I enjoy any opportunity to explore and push myself to the limit of my mental and physical boundaries.
What advice do you have for all the students you have taught – past and present – to help them on their journey in life!
Pursue life 100% by going on as many adventures as possible, but enjoy all the little moments along the way. Sometimes we forget to pay attention to the little things because we get caught up in the chaos of a busy world, yet those little things can become our greatest teachable moments.