Teacher Appreciation Week: Jill Diamond at Big Cross

Glens Falls City School District recognizes national Teacher Appreciation Week by highlighting committed and enthusiastic teachers from every one of our schools each day of the week! Read on for an inside interview with Jill Diamond—one of the most dynamic teachers around our district.

Teacher with students in brightly colored classroom smiling and talking with the "Teachers are Shining Stars" appreciation graphic

Mrs. Jill Diamond graduated from Fredericktown High School, in Fredericktown, Ohio. Her teaching degree is from The Ohio State University, and she later received her Master’s Degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. She has been teaching for 27 years — all in Glens Falls, and all at Big Cross Street School. She’s grateful for both!

What makes your teaching and learning environment unique?
To engage my students, I try to create as many connections with them, to their lives, and with each other as possible. If I can facilitate learning in a hands-on way, I do and if I can give some sense of choice, I will do that as well. I try to teach with a sense of importance for learning while balancing that with showing that learning is enjoyable too.

My teaching and learning environment is unique because we are all pretty close in connection with each other in our classroom. We have students who care about each other and show it in such precious ways. We are fortunate enough to have an aide who is amazing and full of love and care. She and I both care greatly about the students and about each other as professionals as well. The students start each day by saying good morning to individual friends in a caring way and they check in to share how they are feeling. We love to gather in our “forest” within the classroom, by the make-believe campfire! We have story time, calendar, and other lessons here as well. We have mascots too-Mabel and Minion!

Kindergarten teacher in bright classroom laughing with students during a lesson with a stuffed animal
Jill Diamond teaches Kindergarten at Big Cross Street School

Why do you think it’s important to teach the way you do?
I believe it is important for students to recognize the importance of each other’s emotions and the regard for one another in a connected fashion. It is most important to me that they learn to be capable thinkers and compassionate citizens. I also keep in mind that it is important for students to be able to connect their learning to their lives because that is how we know the brain needs it to be in order to function and learn in the best way possible. The brain also needs to feel compassion and care to learn.

Describe your best lesson ever, or one you and students really enjoy.
The lesson that comes to mind is not one that is unique to my classroom alone as many teachers do this, but while it is simple and ordinary, its impact is memorable. At the end of the year, when we take some time to reflect on the year, I think that is one of my favorite lessons, and the students seem to appreciate it as well. We get out the writing they did at the beginning of the year and compare it to what they can do now. Since it is kindergarten, oftentimes, the students could not even form letters at the beginning of the year. We reflect on how much they have learned about reading because even if they are not fluent, they have learned a great deal. We do the same with math and then we look at their pictures from the first day and now. We also talk about the friendships and strategies they have learned for getting along with others. Seeing personal growth through student eyes is rewarding, fun, and emotional.

What’s the best thing about GF Nation?
The best thing about GF Nation is that the size of the classes and district are such that people know each other and there is compassion for each other. At Big Cross, our principal, Mr. Morcone, has made his mantra be that “Big Cross is better together.” This is what has always made GF Nation special. People caring about people — and students who grow through the years and buildings and yet know that they always have people who care back at the starting point. The staff members at Big Cross Street School are really special and Glens Falls is a terrific city, itself, as well.

Kindergarten teacher with students on the classroom rug using blocks to build a ramp as part of a science lesson on force