Feb. 21—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Kayla Dornfeld reminded area teachers on Monday that it's important to take care of themselves and told them that they work in the most important career around.
"I really believe you have chosen the best profession in the world," she said at Richland High School, where she became the latest keynote speaker in Richland School District's annual educational speaker series, now in its sixth year.
Dornfeld, a 14-year elementary school teacher from North Dakota, is the CEO of Top Dog Teaching, an organization that aims to "revitalize learning for students and educators alike."
She travels the country talking to other educators.
Monday's presentation to educators from Richland, Conemaugh Township, Forest Hills, Ferndale Area, Central Cambria and Windber Area school districts and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown focused on the importance of self-care.
Dornfeld told the crowd that teachers are often the first to advocate for other people to take care of themselves without doing the same. She stressed that self-care is not selfish and said that, to help their students and their families, educators need some help as well.
She advised them to follow some basic steps to improve their lives, including connecting with others on a daily basis, avoiding negativity, setting and keeping boundaries, viewing self-care as part of their survival, and other similar points.
She also told them to try doing yoga, deep breathing and guided meditation as grounding techniques and to remember why they got into teaching in the first place.
Dornfeld conveyed her points through audience interaction — several times she requested responses or gave the educators time to stand up and chat with each other about a topic.
Nicole Kerr, a teacher from Forest Hills School District, said hearing the positive message was important, especially in a day and age when teaching can be overwhelming.
"I thought she was very uplifting and motivating," she said.
Brandon Bailey, Richland's director of educational services and event organizer, said Dornfeld was a perfect candidate to give this year's presentation. He said teaching is tough, especially these days, and her message is powerful.
Bailey's main takeaway from the presentation was how Dornfeld communicated the importance of educators in students' lives.
Through several personal stories, the speaker shared how she took time to connect with students and the meaningful impact that that connection had on them.
"She really reminded us why we do this," Bailey said.
Dornfeld said afterward that it's "essential to remind teachers that they're valued and important." Being able to do that for so many is "fun and rewarding," she said.
For more information about Dornfeld, visit topdogteaching.com.