Faculty Spotlight Series: Dina DiGiacomo on The Most Important Teaching Advice She's Ever Received

Jana Cook

Westchester Middle School teacher and Team Leader Dina DiGiacomo shares the best teaching advice she's ever received.

The Windward School is a learning community that recognizes the profession of teaching is a craft that takes an incredible amount of study, practice, and reflection to perfect. Thus, it is part of the School's mission to develop a faculty that is expert in teaching children with language-based learning disabilities. In our Faculty Friday series, we will be highlighting Windward faculty members and their expertise on a variety of educational topics. 

What is the most important teaching advice that you have either received or given?   

“They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  

I remember hearing these words from a college professor during one of my introductory education courses, and it has always stuck with me. But it wasn’t until I completed my first few years of teaching that the enormity of that statement fully sunk in. Connecting is important—vital, even—to make a lasting difference in the lives of students. When students feel a genuine and authentic connection to their teachers, they simply perform better. And teachers who take the time to really get to know their students are better equipped to teach them.  

I find that creating a classroom atmosphere where my students know that I see them and value who they are as people helps to deepen their understanding of the curriculum. To achieve this, I do several important things every day:   

  • First, I greet each student by name at the classroom door each morning. I make sure to have a quick conversation—asking them about something that’s important to them or remembering something they told me from the day before. This helps my students begin the day in a positive way knowing that I genuinely care about them and am invested in their lives.  

  • Throughout the day, I look for ways to interject anecdotes or appropriate situational ideas into my teaching. For example, if a student loves horseback riding, I might find a way to incorporate that into a math problem or reading passage. You’d be surprised by how meaningful a simple gesture can be in making a child feel valued and understood by their teacher—leading to increased confidence and greater academic success.  

Ultimately, everyone wants to feel connected and valued in their community, and this is especially important in our classrooms.

These additions to my daily routine make a huge impact on students and lead to a better sense of classroom community overall. Ultimately, everyone wants to feel connected and valued in their community, and this is especially important in our classrooms.