It is often said that educators wear many hats, and for Tierraney Richardson, the Houston, Texas teacher-turned-administrator — who also coaches cheerleading and runs a classroom management TikTok for 19.7K followers — that phrase could not be more true. As she nears her 10-year mark in the field, Tierraney talked with Quizizz about how she transcended the trend of teachers leaving the classroom to become a building leader who strives to cultivate a healthy school climate and strong teacher morale.
Initially, Tierraney decided to pursue teaching when a college elective course helped her learn how schools in the United States are funded by property taxes. “I realized then that somebody is getting the short end of the stick,” she said, “and unfortunately, it was kids that look like me, or other minority kids.” This experience helped her see the unfortunate inequities of education, and so Tierraney joined Teach For America because her beliefs aligned well with its mission.
“Equity drives everything that I do,” Tierraney explained. “The fact of the matter is that every child, regardless of zip code, deserves the right to obtain an excellent education, but that’s not the reality. I always saw that as a problem, and I wanted to become a part of the solution. So that is why I became an educator, and I’m still in the work to this day.”
Along with advocating for students, Tierraney also helps teachers through her commitment to healthy school climate and strong morale. Quizizz sat down to talk with Tierraney on these topics, and also chat about her experience using Quizizz.
Can you give a full scope of your background in education?
After Teach for America, I became an elementary math teacher in a large, Houston-area public school system. I was a classroom teacher, a mentor teacher, a team leader, a department chair, ESL Teacher of the Year, and eventually a Classroom Culture Specialist — it was a big deal, only a few were selected. Classroom management was my thing since the beginning, and I really wanted a role where I could do that.
Later I became the Dean of School Culture, got my Master’s degree, and then my principal certification, which I finished in April 2021. Blood, sweat and tears went into that one! In September 2021, I started as a K-12 Assistant Principal at a charter school network’s virtual academy, which covers all four regions of the state of Texas, United States.
What teaching practices do you believe create a successful classroom environment?
I definitely believe in keeping a high joy factor in the classroom. I don’t believe in having a classroom that’s just compliant and on-task. I believe in having a classroom that’s passionate, urgent, joyful.
And when it comes to classroom management, the fact of the matter is, it’s not the tricks and the gimmicks. It’s really not. It’s actually just, do you have your basic foundation in place? Do you have the expectations, are they clearly articulated to students? For these rules, I refer to Brene Brown’s “Clear is Kind…” resource. I also emphasize positive reinforcement; teachers need to have ways they can reinforce the desired behaviors they are looking to see in their classroom. So basically, it’s necessary to have strong procedures and routines, and when expectations are not met, consequences that are logical and never harmful for kids.
In addition, you authentically build relationships with students and their families. And for that, I like to use a method called Trust Generators by Zaretta Hammond.
What systems do you believe foster a healthy school climate and strong teacher morale?
When I think about the schools that have been able to retain me the most, it’s the schools who focused on making sure that teacher morale was at an all-time high, and making sure that culture was healthy. Teacher voices should be centered in the work. What I mean by that is, stop making decisions for teachers without consulting them first.
As far as self-care, I don’t want to see another PD on that; instead, give teachers their time, their planning time specifically. Any way you can give them back their time is key. For example, some faculty meetings need to be live, but some can be made asynchronous; our teachers were happy when we did this. You also have to be willing to step into the classroom, to give your teachers a break so they don’t get burned out, so they feel sustained in the work and happy.
Another thing is to make sure that you’re celebrating the successes and wins of your teachers, and letting them know that. When I was a teacher, I just wanted to feel appreciated and valued for my work. And as a leader, you also have to think, how can you invest in who you have? Think about your current staff, and what their goals are for themselves. Overall, people want to feel like a valued member of the community and the team, and to be an equal partner with the school leader.
How do you think your students would describe you?
They would say I’m warm, but also strict, that I’ve perfected that nice balance. They would tell each other, ‘please don’t play with her, just don’t!’ There’s a lot of dancing in the classroom during lunch and being silly. I’ll make them laugh, but when it’s time to switch, I do — I guess I’m ‘strict chill’.
What has been your experience using Quizizz, and how does it compare to other learning platforms you have used?
I will say that I have evolved with Quizizz evolving as well. I used to just use it for the exit tickets, or just fun Fridays, but in my last few years in the classroom, I started to use Quizizz to build out my whole lesson from beginning to end.
I used to use Google Slides for the lesson, and then drop the Quizizz link in the chat, but now, I can build out every portion of my lesson from the do now, to the guided practice or independent practice, to the exit ticket, all in Quizizz, whereas other platforms I’ve used don’t allow me to do that. So that’s why Quizizz is a step above right there.
How does Quizizz resonate with your values as an educator?
First of all, let’s say, when we’re thinking about equity, I wanted to make sure that students every single day were receiving the quality education they deserve, and I knew that it’s not a ‘one size fits all approach.’ So when I think about Quizizz, and how I implemented it in my classroom, it allowed me to make adjustments, real-time in the moment, to address the students’ needs at that particular point in time.
I was able to get real-time feedback, where I could stop, pause, and address those misconceptions, and because I was doing that as a best practice, then I was able to provide or help my students reach higher levels of academic achievement. And so that’s equity in and of itself; being able to use Quizizz in that way as a tool to drive academic outcomes for my kids.
Another reason why I talk about the platform so highly is because it helped to bring in the joy factor into the classroom, and it also helped to increase levels of student engagement and active participation from beginning to end. I can’t think of one student in my classroom who didn’t love when it was time to utilize Quizizz.
You’ve inspired so many teachers. Who are some educators and edu-creators who inspire you?
- Principal Kafele: This New Jersey-based school administrator offers resources, information and inspiration for school leaders. A lot of his material focuses on ‘Leading While Black,’ but his work is important for all.
- Miss Campos: This Los Angeles-based kindergarten teacher won ‘Rookie of the Year’ as a new educator in her district. Her insights as a (now) second-year teacher are fresh, clever and colorful.
As the school year continues, Quizizz remains focused on our mission to empower every teacher, and motivate every learner. Educators who make a difference in their schools and communities are truly what powers our platform, and we can’t thank you enough for continuing to inspire our efforts. As teachers continue to work harder than ever this year, our goal at Quizizz will be to keep providing tools that cover the full scope of instruction so students can succeed in the classroom and beyond.
If you know a rockstar teacher who loves to use Quizizz in the classroom, DM our Twitter with their contact information, and they just might be selected as our next Featured Educator!