Nominated by parent Allison Baxter:
If I had only one word to describe Dina Riley, I would have to say encouraging. However, encouraging barely scratches the surface. She is kind, respectful, helpful, observant, fair: an all-around phenomenal educator. Fourth grade seems to be a game-changer in the academic world. The kids no longer are learning to read, but are reading to learn. Mrs. Riley has an arsenal of tricks to get the kids wanting to learn what she is teaching them. Yet, it is not the tricks that motivate the students in her class, the motivation comes from her person. In essence, she fosters resilience in the students who have the privilege of having her as their teacher. She connects with them by building a community of respect in the classroom. Mrs. Riley has the gift of discovering the talents of each student by cultivating competence, which boosts their confidence. The students in her class rise to their growing potential as a result of Mrs. Riley's encouragement. Mrs. Riley has high, fair standards. She expects her students to put forth their best effort because she knows they can, and they do! I think one of my favorite traits about Mrs. Riley is the way she compliments the kids. She encourages in abundance, and her praise is authentic. When students reach a goal, work hard, do their best work, she lets them know, but she praises sparingly, making her words meaningful. My son would much rather read than put his pencil to paper and write. Mrs. Riley discovered this about him, and pushed him to work harder in his writing because she knew he was capable of more than he was showing. As a result of her belief in him, he worked hard and earned full points on a state writing assessment. Prior to 4th grade, my son believed he was not a good writer, so he did not put forth much effort in any writing assignment. Mrs. Riley developed intrinsic motivation in him due to her belief in his abilities. At the end of the school year, he choose to work hard on any and all writing that came his way. Mrs. Riley provides opportunities for each student to discover his or her innate leadership abilities. The community she nurtures in her classroom allows for everyone to work as a cohesive team. My son does not assert himself as a leader, he prefers being in the background. For a unit towards the end of the school year, Mrs. Riley assigned him to be the Team Leader, and he excelled because she trusted him and knew he earned the opportunity to undertake the responsibility. He came away from school every day telling me it was the compliments from his classmates and from Mrs. Riley that was the best part of his day. Students in Mrs. Riley's class are kind and respectful to one another because Mrs. Riley is kind and respectful to everyone in her class. When a problem arises, she handles it quickly, but with mercy and grace. There is no shame, just understanding through communication. My son is going into the 5th grade confident and competent in his academic abilities, including writing. It is a true testament to the impact Mrs. Riley made on my son when, in June, he told me he was not ready for summer vacation because he did not want to say goodbye to his teacher. Dina Riley is a talented and gifted teacher; she teaches with grace, with kindness, with respect, with understanding, and with compassion. It was an honor and a privilege to entrust my son's education into her very capable and loving hands. Thank you Mrs. Riley!
Congratulations Dina, from all of us at K103!
What inspired you to become an educator?
Being an educator has always been who I am! I started tutoring younger students when I was in elementary school, in a program called HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) I loved the feeling of helping struggling students "get it" and I've never stopped. I also give credit to the excellent educators I had growing up. Their guidance and support helped me believe in myself. I hope I do that for my students.
What do you like most about teaching?
What I like best about teaching is seeing progress coupled with pride. I have a quote from Plato posted at my desk. "Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." I keep it up so that I never loose sight of that. We are in a busy, test-driven time in education. I try to keep focused on the progress, not the test "score".
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
Technology is the biggest change since I entered the teaching profession! It is both exciting and a bit overwhelming at times. I love furthering my education and putting myself in situations where I am reminded what it feels like to be the "student". Technology is the subject that keeps me learning! The cool part is that my students often teach me new things in this area!
What would you like parents to know about your job?
I want parents to know that we are a team and I care very much about their children! I will stand up for their children and I welcome their input!
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
One of my most memorable stories isn't what I could call a "favorite" story but it is a story that has impacted my life as a person, not just as an educator. I taught third grade, in a low-income school. I had a student that was abruptly removed from his home and wasn't able to bring anything with him when he left. Both of his parents were placed in police custody and the boy was temporarily placed with his uncle. This sweet boy came to school the next day wearing female-style jeans. (his uncle had a daughter about this boy's size) I went to my principal and she gave me the "Principal's Checkbook" which is set up through the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. I was able to go shopping for the boy and get him a few basics. When I gave them to him, he was his usual kind, sweet self. He thanked me, smiled and hopped on his bike with his backpack stuffed. The next morning, when I got to school, this angel boy was sitting at my classroom door waiting for me. He was wearing some of the clothes. He was grinning and holding a rose and he gave it to me with a note he had written to thank me. He looked so proud! Later that day, the custodian (who gets to the school at the crack of dawn) said he had been there for about an hour before I arrived, with that rose and note in hand. I will never forget that!