Top Teacher: Dana Wakefield
Dana Wakefield dreamed of being a teacher when she was a little girl, and now her dream has come true. As math specialist at Willard Model Elementary School in Norfolk, Wakefield divides her time between working with small groups of students to improve their math skills and assisting teachers with planning and delivering their math lessons.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to teach,” Wakefield says. “I always just knew that was what I wanted to do in life.” She previously taught second and third grade at Sherwood Forest Elementary and third grade at Lindenwood Elementary, both in Norfolk. She also taught for a year in New York while her husband attended culinary school.
Wakefield grew up in Chesapeake. In the seventh grade, she drew inspiration from a “phenomenal” math teacher, Sue Boyette. “I remember sitting in class, struggling with a particularly difficult concept, but I never got discouraged,” Wakefield recalls. “Mrs. Boyette was always so encouraging and supportive. She would tell us, ‘If you don’t get it, come eat lunch with me.’ She loved math, and that made me love math, too. Even now, when I solve a math problem, I still hear her voice in my head.” Wakefield keeps in touch with her former teacher, whom she sees from time to time as a customer at her family’s butcher shop, Pendulum Fine Meats in Ghent.
Teaching is much more difficult than most people realize, and Wakefield loves the challenge of helping teachers create lesson plans that meet the needs of teachers and students. “Perfect teaching doesn’t happen all the time,” she says. “A single lesson plan doesn’t fit the needs of each child, and I love the challenge of finding ways of teaching math that work for everyone. Everyone is a learner, and that includes teachers.”
Wakefield learns something new every day from students and fellow teachers, and she is honored to be recognized as a Top Teacher. “I believe the classroom should be a place where teachers and students can learn from each other, and I work to create an atmosphere to support that goal,” she says. “I am always amazed when I hear kids explain how they arrived at an answer to a math problem that I never would have approached in that way.”
Wakefield was nominated for the distinction of Top Teacher by Julie Honeycutt, principal at Willard Model Elementary. “Dana Wakefield brings math to life for many students each year at our school,” Honeycutt writes on an online nomination form. “She helps students realize that math is all around them and is used in almost every aspect of our lives. She breaks down math problems so students have the confidence to solve them, step by step. She continuously reflects on lessons and is not afraid to admit when something is not working.”
Wakefield lives in Norfolk with her husband, Dylan. The two have been married for 16 years, and they have a 7-year-old daughter, Lenox.