Each year, the #SpanningtheNeed will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week, Education Edition’ during Teacher Appreciation Week and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted teachers who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured as apart of our Teacher Appreciation Week is Cindy McKinstry from East Palestine City Schools District. | Nominate someone now.
Name: Cindy McKinstry
Position: Math Teacher
School District: East Palestine City Schools
What made you want to go into the education field?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a teacher. I remember teaching piano lessons to my dolls at a very young age. Subjects of interest changed along the way but I still always thought about the teaching aspect.
I didn’t take the necessary steps right out of high school though. I was in my late twenties/early thirties when I decided to go for it. I liked the idea of helping people to learn new things and trying to make math easier for people. That challenged me and still does.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful in education?
I think the fact that I was a nontraditional college student with young children really helped. I remember having to learn several of the current fads and looking at my own children realizing what parts would have to be adjusted in order for it to work for them.
I try not to get too comfortable and constantly challenge myself to look at methods and concepts from different angles. This has helped me educate students with a variety of different learning styles and backgrounds. I guess success comes from developing a variety of teacher tricks that are picked up along the way.
NASA Awards Canfield Students Flight Opportunity in TechRise Challenge(Opens in a new browser tab)What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
The biggest professional mistake I made along the way was to wait too long to take the next steps. Sometimes you just need to go for it and figure out the little parts as you move forward. I wish I would have completed my high school licensure sooner. I love teaching at a middle school but the upper level math just makes so much sense to me.
What is the best advice you can give future educators or the public?
The best thing that you can do for yourself is to be open to new ideas and methods. Teaching throws a lot of things your way, such as, relationships, advances in technology, new processes and procedures. Being afraid of new challenges just holds you back. Many times I feel that I am learning right along with my students. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone who will help. The students are extremely helpful keeping me current with technology.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
If I could start all over again, I would probably complete my High School licensure sooner and possibly complete work to teach at a college level. Math just speaks to me. I didn’t realize this until later in life.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
I think the song Firework by Katie Perry would be a soundtrack to my life. Every time I listen to it, it challenges me to be bold and try new things. It reminds me that I am a strong person and can achieve what I set my mind to.
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
My best accomplishment was giving my daughters roots and wings to be the best that they can be. They are not afraid to meet challenges head on and see what the world offers them. But they also have good hearts and are kind. It has been very satisfying to watch them pass this along to their children.
Who is your role model and Why?
My role model was a teacher that I had in High School. She taught High School choir and taught me so much. I was an accompanist as a freshman and came to a city school from a rural background. She had so much patience with me. She always took the time to help me in any way that she could.
I still use so much of what she taught me. I still prepare everything the night before because a performance is better prepared ahead of time. Also, you always take your music with you so nothing happens to it. As a result, I have a tendency to keep materials and paperwork with me. Probably the biggest thing was how she treated everyone with so much respect. Everyone was worth something in her eyes. I try to live by this.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present, who would it be and why?
I would like to meet the builder of my family’s farmhouse. My siblings and I have inherited the family homestead that was built in 1806. The builder received the land as a land grant for serving in the Revolutionary War. He traveled with his grown children and their spouses to settle the land. I would like to understand his spirit and determination to settle and create a home in the wilderness.
A favorite quote that you live by?
I came across a quote by Stan Gudder, Professor of Mathematics several years ago that makes a lot of sense to me.
“The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.”
I remember this when things get busy and complicated and try to think of ways to get back to simplicity.