Class Acts — 04 February 2022
Class Acts: A conversation with educators

By Greg Carannante

City & Shore Magazine

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with local educators — answers to essay questions, if you will — describing their personal experience as teachers in an unprecedented era.

As director of education technology at American Heritage School in Plantation, Pam Holifield was thrust to the front lines of education in the age of COVID.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I feel we have been in constant planning mode,” she says. “Think of it as a trip you planned, but the airline keeps changing your flight to different locations. You adjust to where you landed, still think of where you wanted to go, and worry where you may be sent next.”

Having begun her career as a fourth-grade teacher in 1998, Holifield started at American Heritage as a third-grade teacher in 2001. She subsequently served as a high school English teacher/reading specialist and director of reading. The 43-year Broward County resident lives in Plantation.

As an educator, what has been your greatest challenge over the course of this school year?

Time is the biggest challenge. In my opinion, we are in a pivotal renaissance. It is exciting, but what do you do first? Growth usually means making changes. Making changes takes planning. Planning takes time. I feel fortunate that I work where innovation is applauded and the time it takes to do things correctly is understood.

What has given you your biggest sense of accomplishment?

I am going to answer in three parts.

  1. Cliche: My family. Goodness, I feel fortunate every second of every day.
  2. My Job: I grew up in South Florida and always wanted to be a teacher. I also always wanted to work at American Heritage. I believe in the law of attraction.
  3. Fun: My knowledge of music ranging from the ’40s to today. I think this is because my parents were born in the ’30s and ’40s. People are usually impressed with the songs and artists I know.

What makes you tick?

Being busy. We all enjoy a lazy day, but friends laugh at me when I narrate what I call a lazy day. I think it is more about the planning and execution of the day that makes me ‘tick.’ I have the same feeling when I cross off a ‘work to do’ as I do planning a family vacation. Carpe diem!

Who or what is your personal inspiration?

Happiness. I want to be happy and make others happy. There is nothing better than spending a night laughing with your family, hearing good news from a friend, or learning with a co-worker. Smiles are infectious. I am inspired by the joys of my friends, family and co-workers.

If you were in charge, what would you change about education in America?

Hmmm, this is a harder question than you think. You are asking how I would change the entire country and I should answer in one paragraph. The obvious answer seems to be money. Money can raise salaries, lower class sizes, provide updated construction, and deliver new technologies to a school system, to name a few. A small change that just makes sense currently. At American Heritage, I feel fortunate that every student and teacher has an iPad and updated computers. I have many friends at other schools who ask me for ideas all the time, but unfortunately, they do not have the tools at their fingertips. These tools can offer a simple advantage in today’s student learning environment.

What is the word that you feel best describes today’s student, and why?

Monumental. In a split second, students have access to knowledge from the beginning of time. They are innovative and are making global impacts in communication and collaboration.

What kind of student were you?

Teacher’s pet. I knew I always wanted to be in education. In fact, it is one of my earliest memories. My kindergarten teacher would rock in a chair and read us books. I would stand behind her and peek at the images of the stories before she showed them to the rest of the class. In the following years, I cleaned erasers, watched the class when the teacher went to the bathroom, and organized student work for teachers. I showed appreciation, and when I was in school studying to be a teacher, I reached out to former teachers and asked them to observe me and provide feedback. This feedback meant more to me than any college professor.

PHOTO:  Pam Holifield, courtesy

 

 

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