Mother like daughter
It can sometimes get a little confusing around Triton Elementary School, if you are looking for a first grade teacher. Especially if you are not sure if you are looking for Mrs. Henslin or Ms. Henslin.
Once you figure it out it really quite simple. Mrs. Henslin is Dawna and Ms. Henslin is her daughter Emily.
While Dawna Henslin has been teaching here since 1986 this is Emily’s first year at Triton after seven years teaching kindergarten at Blooming Prairie.
Despite the difference in the number of years they have been in the classroom, the love of teaching is obvious with both of them.
Dawna explained that she was not one of those people who knew from the beginning she wanted to be a teacher and said she switched her major several times while in college.
She started out as a business major, she said, and then switched to social work. She was thinking about music therapy but to do that she needed a music major. With an introduction to music class, she said, she finally settled on elementary education.
Her first assignments involved working with special education students. That was when she realized how she could use her music in the classroom. Students who seldom spoke would relate to music and sing the words.
She continued her use of music in the classroom when she moved to teaching first grade. It is her way of interacting with the kids, she said. “I love it when we make up songs.” She has the only first grade classroom at Triton that includes a piano.
Emily Henslin said that she and her siblings are all graduates of Triton and that she knew early on that she wanted to teach.
Her love of teaching, she said, comes from watching her mother and how she saw the joy Dawna had for teaching.
She even turned tutoring kindergarten students into her senior project, she said. While they both share a love of teaching, they do approach it differently, Dawna said, and in many ways complement each other.
She said that although she embraces the new technologies in teaching she relies more on her years of teaching and still uses things that have worked over the past 40 years. In fact, she said, she has even been known to still use an overhead.
Emily, on the other hand, her mother says, uses the computer more and has developed her own unique ideas on using the smart board.
“I have them (students) interact on the smartboard,” Emily said. “I use more technology.” There is no right or wrong way, she added. Emily is however, her mother added, still open to some of the older things that work.
Despite their differences in style, both agree, working together, teaching the same grade at the same school, they can help and assist each other.
Still it has caused some amusing situations. For example, when at the monthly Golden Awards, and the award is announced as going to Mrs. Henslin’s room or Ms. Henslin’s rooms, the kids have sometimes thought it was their class when in reality it was the other.
The two non-Henslin teachers on the first grade team have also been “super supportive” of the mother- daughter combination, Dawna said. And all the other teachers seem to agree.
On the recent “dress like your role model” day at the school, Emily went through the items her mother had collected in her classroom over the years, things like sunglasses and headbands, and shared them with other teachers who added them to their wardrobe for the day and tagged themselves as “Mrs. Henslin.”
“I’m honored,” Dawna said of Emily, “that not only does she enjoy hanging out with me, she respects what I do.”