Let’s give a big hello to Tara West. She may be small (she’s only 5 feet tall), but she’s big on personality! She’s a hometown girl (lives and teaches in the town she grew up in) who loves her family, traveling, and especially, being a teacher. Tara loves warm climates, diet soda, and sunflower seeds. She says folks call her “squirrel” because of it. You can read more about her in this post and on her wonderful blog, Little Minds at Work.

1. Tara, your “About Me” portion of your blog is so genuine and sincere. Tell us more: Where did you meet your husband, and how did you know he was “the one”? And those nieces: How cute are they?! What are some things you love to do with them?

My husband and I met eight years ago and will be married seven years in March. Our story is far from a fairy tale, but that is more than okay with me. Actually we met because our sisters were neighbors at the time. My husband really is my everything. He understands me and all of my “quirks.” He supports me in everything I do and makes an awesome teacher assistant. I can always count on him to help me laminate, cut, or assist with anything else I need for the classroom. He’s also been very supportive of my adventure here on Teachers Pay Teachers. Sometimes he does question if I’m working when he sees me on Facebook, but I reassure him that it’s the Little Minds at Work Facebook page.

My nieces, Lolah and Vaida, show me what life is really about. My husband and I love spending time with the girls. We have sleepovers, go out to eat, and enjoy occasional shopping sprees to the toy store.

TaraWestNieces

2. Let’s talk about teaching – when did you know you wanted to be a teacher, and how has Teachers Pay Teachers affected your teaching style?

There was never any doubt that I would be a teacher once I grew up. Ever since I was really young, I would come home from school and change into my teacher attire, get my whistle, and start class. I’m fairly positive that my neighbors wondered who I was talking to and correcting while blowing my whistle at “recess.” When it came time to be placed for student teaching, I was blessed to be placed at my childhood elementary school. I was asked to stay on in my current kindergarten position there as well. It’s as if I only left for a small amount of time. I’m now able to give back to the school that inspired me to be a teacher in the first place.

You can easily say that Teachers Pay Teachers has rocked my teaching world. I honestly can not remember myself as a teacher before stumbling upon Teachers Pay Teachers. There have been so many benefits, personally and professionally. As a teacher, I’m able to collaborate with teachers from around the world, which has opened my eyes wide to all of the possibilities in the classroom. Teachers Pay Teachers has also empowered me with a way to share my teaching ideas, tips, and material.

Personally, Teachers Pay Teachers has been a way for me get through a really tough time in my life. My husband and I have struggled with infertility since marrying. After receiving a lot of sad news including the diagnosis that we may never have a child of our own, I poured every ounce of energy into Teachers Pay Teachers and my personal classroom. I struggled a lot with why I was chosen to walk this path, but I quickly realized that even though I didn’t have a sweet baby to hold each night, I could still make a difference in thousands of children’s lives… in my own classroom and classrooms around the world.

Tara&Husband

3. Thank you, Tara, for sharing that with us. How else do you like to spend your time in addition to teaching and making resources?

My husband and I really love to travel. I prefer the warmer destinations so we’ve recently been to Florida, Las Vegas, and California.

It seems like I never do take a vacation from my passion for creating and sharing, though. On our California trip, I had my laptop out on the flight and during the layover. We all know that teachers never stop thinking and planning ahead.

In addition to traveling, I enjoy spending time with my family and shopping {what girl doesn’t, right?}

KidsInClassroom
From the Little Red Hen Book Companion – FirstGradeBlueSkies

4. What kind of products do you purchase from other bloggers on Teachers Pay Teachers, and have you formed new friendships with these bloggers?

I state it over and over again just so no one ever gets the wrong impression… I am NOT crafty. Jennifer White at FirstGradeBlueSKies and Hadar, Miss Kindergarten Love save me time and time again from my lack of crafting skills. Between those two girls, I’m covered for any and every cute craft I could ever think of needing.

I’ve been honored to meet and collaborate with so many awesome teachers and teacher-bloggers through Teachers Pay Teachers. I do think teachers seem to have like-minded ideas and share the same drive for success in the classroom.

Hadar and I met online when she reached out to me in 2012. She was so kind and never thought twice about helping the new girl. Since then, we’ve become great friends. It’s really nice to have someone to talk to that can relate to the work we do in the classroom and shares the same passion for creating and sharing in the blogging world.

5. Speaking of your passion for creating, what are your three favorite products and why?

My favorite product hands-down would be my Guided Reading Mega Bundle. I absolutely love guided reading time each day in my classroom. So, needless to say, I enjoy sharing my ideas for guided reading. What I love most about the guided reading bundle is that it’s endless. This means anything new I make for guided reading in my classroom gets added to the mega bundle. The bundle owners get free updates to their purchase monthly, if not more often than that.

I’ve also fallen in love with my KinderPhonics units. In my classroom, I longed for a phonics program that was challenging, yet practical for kindergarten. The units are a labor of love, but they’ve paid off for sure. I’ve seen the most success ever in my students’ letter names and sounds… all thanks to using KinderPhonics.

Along with KinderPhonics, I’ve also implemented my close reads into my classroom this year. It makes my heart smile when I hear my students turning to their partners and sharing facts from the book we’re reading. The students are also able to answer big kid questions like, “Why did the author put that in the story?” and “How can you support that?” You can try close reads in your classroom using my freebie nonfiction Penguin Close Read packet.

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Tara, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and thank you for being such an inspiration.

If you’d like to read about some of our other Teacher-Authors, be sure to check out our 5 questions blog series.