Alumni honored with district-wide award
May 14, 2021 — DENTON — First year on the job, 29 fifth-graders, the COVID-19 pandemic — these were the challenges facing Katie Domagala, a Spring 2020 graduate of Texas Woman’s University, two weeks before the 2020-2021 school year started. Then she found out that she would be teaching entirely online.
Domagala, a fifth-grade teacher at Garden Ridge Elementary in Lewisville, did not just survive the year, though. She excelled, being named the Elementary First-Year Teacher of the Year in Lewisville Independent School District, one of the larger districts in all of North Texas.
“It was definitely a challenge to adapt to having to build student relationships, implement lesson material and effectively interact with parents through a computer,” Domagala said. “But with time, everything fell into place. Patience was key.”
Domagala said that teaching practices and values she learned in the Department of Teacher Education in the College of Professional Education (COPE) at TWU were keys to her success. In such a challenging year, learning to never be afraid to ask for help at TWU was more relevant than she had ever anticipated.
“All teachers and admin have been in our shoes. They know what it’s like to feel scared, unsure and nervous about having a class of students to teach for the first time ever,” she said. “Some of the most beneficial advice I received this year came straight from my principal simply because I asked for help.”
One of the unique difficulties about being entirely online was building relationships with her students, but it was also the most fulfilling and enriching part of this year.
Domagala used morning meetings online as opportunities to learn more about each of her students through games. It helped her class start the day on a positive note and provided useful information to better know each of her students as individuals.
“By the end of the year, I truly feel like my time with each of my students grew their confidence in academics but also in their personalities overall,” Domagala said. “When a student feels like they can be themselves with the teacher and the class, the learning environment becomes enriched so much more.”
As the end of the school year rapidly approaches for Domagala, her fifth-graders and students everywhere, she reflects.
“Being an educator not only means teaching students, but also learning from your students and about yourself in the process,” she said. “It is truly a rewarding profession if you desire to work with and alongside students of any age.”
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Page last updated 1:35 PM, May 14, 2021