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Cristina Chase Lane ’18 on the Importance of Relationship Building

Cristina Chase Lane

Before her first day as a third-grade teacher at Reedy Creek Elementary School, Cristina Chase Lane ’18 decided she would start each morning off by greeting her students at the door with a high-five, handshake or hug. On the first day of class, she said most of her students were excited, a handful were shy, but one darted into the room dodging her high-five and responding “Horrible!” when asked how they were doing.

She made a mental note of that response then went about the semester developing routines, procedures and structures in her class all while continuing to focus on building relationships with her students.

“My first year teaching has been a rollercoaster ride,” she said. “I quickly learned that being a teacher is so much more than lesson planning and teaching. Every day of this job is an adventure. . . and the College of Education did an amazing job shaping me into the teacher I am by providing me knowledgeable professors and introducing me to concepts, like culturally relevant practices, pertinent to teaching this generation.”

Her ability to adapt her classroom to build community beyond her lesson plans is what caught the attention of her principal, Catherine Yanello, who nominated Lane for Wake County Public School System’s 2018-19 Diane Kent-Parker First-Year Teacher Award.

“To see her in action, you would never guess that she is a first-year teacher. She has command of her class,” Yanello said. “Ms. Lane knew the value of building relationships and made it a point to focus on getting to know her students and their families.”

Lane went on to win the award, which recognizes outstanding first-year teachers who have navigated challenges of a new job with grace, skill and confidence.

She says being surprised by her school administration and the superintendent when she won is pretty high on the list of memorable days from her first year on the job. But a different morning comes to mind when she thinks of the best day as a teacher.

One Monday morning a few months into the school year, she stood in her doorway greeting her students like always when her student who previously ignored her high-fives and attempts to engage, walked in and replied to her morning question with a simple “Good.”

“In that moment, my day froze,” she said. “It was the first time I felt I made a difference — that all my time spent relationship building, creating engaging instruction, and worrying if I was good enough impacted a student.”