Husband, wife share love of classroom teaching
BRYAN, Texas — For more than 20 years, the husband and wife teaching duo of LaNette and David Godfrey have taken teaching seriously by instructing in an anything but serious way.
The Eagle reports when you enter David Godfrey’s art classroom, you’re entering a “land of rainbows and unicorns and all positive things.”
Godfrey teaches 10 art classes for 30 minutes each day at Mitchell Elementary School in Bryan and packs every bit of wonder, imagination and magic into each minute.
“Childhood is important to me,” he said. “I tell the kids a lot that they’re going to be a child the smallest amount of time in their life, so I want to make the most of it, help them make the most of it.”
He has been teaching art at Mitchell Elementary School for 12 years. Before that, he taught fourth grade, third grade, reading and writing and science, but he has settled on art.
“Art is what I love,” he said.
After teaching in a traditional fourth grade classroom for 21 years, LaNette Godfrey became an instructional coach at Bonham Elementary three years ago — supporting, guiding and helping teachers, including the “mountain of paperwork that people don’t even know about.”
“I had a lot of people that said, ‘You should try this (instructional teaching) because you’ve had so much success with the kids in the classroom,'” she said. “I feel like I build relationships really well. I’ve always been able to work with anyone, so it was a natural transition to see if I will like it, and I actually really love it.”
With the teachers, she emphasizes building relationships with students. They need to know they can trust their teachers with anything, that their teachers respect them and that they’ll do anything for them by figuring out their individual needs and accommodating for them. That is how students are motivated to learn and do what they’re asked, she said.
“I didn’t connect with a lot of my teachers when I was in school, so that was the one thing I wanted to change,” LaNette Godfrey said. “You have to challenge them, and they have to love school. I didn’t really like school, but then there were a couple of teachers that really sparked my interest, so I thought, ‘That’s one thing I have to do; I have to help them enjoy school.'”
David Godfrey keeps things light in his classroom.
With his guidance, the students create goblet sculptures with monster faces, haunted tree pencil holders, seahorse drawings colored and painted in every kind of way imagined, bowls made of glow-in-the-dark oven-baked clay and sugar skull necklaces.
“Sometimes handles fall off, but we work together, and we figure it out as we go and have a lot of fun,” David said. “That’s how I do things: Try to figure out how to make complicated things easier for kids to do so it looks like 100 bucks.”
Because parents trust him from the feedback they get from kids, he feels inspired to experiment and be creative, he said.
“I really put students and relationships and family first, and everything else comes second,” he added.
LaNette Godfrey brings her passion — writing — to classrooms and visits second-grade classes for model writing lessons, which is the time when they are really honing their craft, she said.
“I have a passion and a love for writing, and I think sometimes that tends to get pushed back because we focus on reading so much, so I really try to push doing more writing in the classroom,” she said.
She puts her philosophies of creative teaching into practice in the spring when she transitions to a more traditional teaching role by preparing students for the language arts portion of the STARR exam.
“I have about eight groups of students a day . to work on different skills related to what they will see on the test, and I try to make it fun,” LaNette Godfrey said. “We play games like Jenga blocks: if a student gets an answer right, they can pull out a block. I do different ways of learning instead of the … instructional read-this-and-answer-the-question way.”
Being able to instruct both teachers and students is a win-win situation for LaNette that she hopes will continue.
“I really like being able to work with the teachers — I do think I’m making a difference, and I still get to work with kids,” she said.
For David Godfrey, his job enjoyment spills into extracurricular activities. He also heads up an after-school art club, has his students make bowls for the local charity event, Empty Bowls, and put on pottery shows that have around 300 pieces.
“There’s something inside of me that wants to make things better; I guess it’s a sense of responsibility,” he said. “I don’t want a day to go by that they have not enjoyed me or the class or the interactions. It’s all about what we do, not what we make, but in the process, we make a ton of really good stuff.”