Diana Haynes, North Kansas City

Diana Haynes with students

For generations, people have grown up and joined the family business. In a way, that’s what Diana Haynes did when she chose a career in education.

“My dad spent 38 years training teachers at Missouri Western,” says Diana, who is in her 27th year of teaching. “My mom was a school nurse. My grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse outside Sedalia, and my brother is a director in St. Joseph Schools. Education is all I have ever known.”

Diana did not, however, begin teaching at the grade levels she had trained for. She was certified in elementary education and K-12 special education. Diana did her student teaching in 1st grade and wanted a career in the lower grades. So how did she end up teaching 6th grade English at Antioch Middle School in the North Kansas City School District?

“When I graduated from college, the job market for teachers was very tight,” Diana explains. “I finally accepted a position teaching 6th grade special education.”

The heavy training provided by that experience put Diana in a good position to teach English. She says the emphasis on reading and language arts in her special education class gave her a solid foundation for moving into a mainstream classroom.Diana Haynes 2

“I thought I could help even more kids in a general setting,” she says. “And I love teaching middle school. The kids are just beginning to blossom as individuals. It’s a great age to begin fostering a sense of the world outside of their own experiences.”

Technology has changed the way students access information, but Diana says she still teaches the content she has always taught by introducing her students to classic literature, non-fiction and history texts.

“Kids are more worldly now – they have exposure to a lot of things online,” Diana says. “I want my classroom to be a place where they can learn in a safe environment. I want them to still be 6th graders.”

That doesn’t mean Diana shies away from technology. During a unit on civil rights, Diana traveled to Selma, Birmingham and Memphis and visited iconic locations associated with the civil rights movement. She used images from her trip to build a virtual field trip for her students. She says her students now want to read more about the movement, and they’re having discussions about it at home.

“I use history to teach concepts,” she says. “I like to teach real-world examples and use historical fiction to bring those concepts alive for my students. It makes a difference. Some of my students who began class saying they didn’t like reading now say English is their favorite class.”

Diana also uses her lessons to get students thinking about what they want to do with their lives.

She says, “I like to foster interest in teaching as a career. I currently have a student who calls herself my ‘assistant’ and tells me she wants to do her student teaching in my class. I have had former students come back to my class for their practicum.”

Diana highlights other careers based on what she’s teaching. She’ll point out publishing as a career when the kids are engrossed in a particular book. During a lesson based on song lyrics, she’ll tell her students about songwriting as a career.

But education is the career dearest to Diana. She never considered anything else.

“Teaching is all I wanted to do,” she says. “Seeing my students’ excitement when they’re learning and understanding – seeing them grow – that’s happiness to me.”