Meet SmartStart Teacher Joseph McFadden

Joseph McFadden has been with SmartStart Education since September. He currently works with 3rd and 4th grade students as a small group math interventionist with City Springs Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland.                  

McFadden holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Baltimore in Maryland. His background includes working as a site coordinator and senior site coordinator with the AmeriCorps Reading Partners program. In addition, he worked as a program operations associate with Liberty Elementary School in Baltimore.

Finding a passion through struggles:

McFadden’s passion for education came from his own difficulties during childhood. “I struggled with confidence and had issues learning when I was a kid. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers that helped me find who I am and develop a love for learning.” he said. He added that he feels there is nothing more rewarding than helping his students succeed and gain confidence.

Teaching is filled with surprises and challenges:

Teaching does come with surprises and challenges. His experience with elementary students taught him that they can be complex. He said some students act out one minute then pivot to showing a mature and kind side to their personalities the next. He recalls one student who was quite challenging. “She would shut her ears and turn her back on me when I tried to teach her. However, by the end of the year she would greet me in the hallways,” he said. He explained that it was important for him to build a relationship with the girl by using positive reinforcement mixed with consequences for unacceptable behavior. “It took a lot of patience. All of my patience! But, by the end of the year, I was very proud of her progress,” he added.

McFadden said he has noticed that the pandemic set many students back academically. He believes this has also translated to more behavioral issues in the classroom. “Students are less used to the classroom and teacher expectations. Many are often doing work from previous grades to catch up,” he said. He admitted that discipline issues have been the hardest part of teaching, but credits more experienced teachers with helping him learn how to be calm and patient when issues arise.

A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:

The joys of teaching have far outweighed any issues he’s faced thus far. “I love when the students find learning fun,” he said. “Whenever I notice progress and can point that out to a student, it makes my day. In summary, when I see a student happy because of something they learned, I am happy too.”