This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about Mount Vernon area residents working in our business community. This week’s Q&A profiles Leslie Holt, a Third Grade Teacher of an all-girls class at Washington Mill Elementary School (WMES).
Leslie, who has worked at WMES for four years, has lived with her family in the Mount Vernon community for more than 12 years.
A daughter of a military family, Leslie grew up living “coast to coast,” moving to different locations every few years. She attended high school in Northern Virginia and holds an Education Degree from George Mason University. In the late 90s, Leslie and her husband, Chuck, moved to the Mount Vernon community after falling in love with the area. The couple has three sons, ages 13, 11 and 8. Their oldest son attends Walt Whitman Middle School, and the two younger boys attend WMES.
How did you become interested in your line of work?
I come from a long line of teachers in my family. It definitely runs in our genes.
How did your opportunity at WMES come up?
For many years, I had been an involved parent at the school. After being a stay-at-home mom for some time, the principal knew I was ready to come back to education, I just wasn’t sure at what capacity. There was an opportunity to become an aide for a physically disabled student, so I decided to take the position … it was a great way to get my foot in the door. After about a month, the school then needed a kindergarten teacher right away (due to high registration numbers). They came to me and offered me the position. I had always wanted to be part of the school’s amazing kindergarten team. It was a great opportunity, so I jumped at the chance to join the team.
Describe a typical day in your classroom.
I like to tackle small groups and provide one-on-one instruction, whenever possible. Depending on the needs of students, I also have specialists come into our classroom to assist with small groups. This helps our kids receive more individualized instruction, and you can teach students depending on their personal needs. I’m a big fan of differentiated education because some students are ready to go farther at certain points, and some need extra time to understand a particular concept.
What’s one interesting aspect of your job?
We all go into this career because we want to make a difference, I know that sounds so cliché. But, honestly, when you sit there and put the time into somebody, lend him or her that helping hand, and then see that light bulb go off, I don’t think there is any other line of work that’s as rewarding. There’s really no better feeling.
What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
I used to really love finding the exact activity that would help a need in language arts. But now that I’ve learned new skills in teaching math, I’m really enjoying watching the kids build their concepts. I like to encourage them to not be afraid of taking risks, to try to explain their thinking, and to know that it’s OK to be wrong sometimes. Teaching this kind of math has really been an awesome experience.
What are your thoughts on how teaching math to elementary school-aged kids has changed in the last 20 years?
This is what I tell my students’ parents: In the past, our philosophy was, “Here is what you do, now you practice.” Now, the philosophy is more about “Here is the problem, what can we do?” With this new approach, you are allowing students to go from wherever they are to start with, so they can get that basic understanding. It’s fascinating.
Name some recent books you have read.
I just read the first book in the “Hunger Games” series.
Where is your favorite place to go in the Mount Vernon area?
The bike path along the Potomac River. It’s gorgeous and I never get tired of it.
What’s on your iPod?
I have eclectic taste in music. I like everything from classical music to Lady Gaga.
What are your hobbies?
I just took up knitting. It’s been very calming.
Do you have a favorite area restaurant?
We used to love Il Paradiso before it closed. Now, I would say Primo Family Restaurant [in Belle View Shopping Center].
Any hidden talents?
Not that I’ve discovered yet!
If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
I’m really happy with my job, but if I were doing anything else, I know it would still revolve around making children’s lives better through child development and education.