Students Are Always Listening. Our Words Make a Difference.

Celebrating the Art of Teaching, One Educator at a Time

McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas


We’ve been publishing educator stories through our guest blogging program, The Art of Teaching, for over seven years now. Educators from all over the country (even the world) have shared their perspectives on what makes teaching so deeply fulfilling despite the seemingly never-ending challenges.

Now, we want to pause a moment and celebrate them individually. Every one of these educators and bloggers brings their own unique skills and perspectives to what makes teaching a true art form. We’re sitting down with them to find out what brought them to teaching and how they refine their practice.

Today, we spoke with Skylar Primm, a lead teacher at a project- and place-based school teacher with a talent for forging connections with students:

What path did you take to your current role in education?

I took a winding path to my current role as Lead Teacher at Koshkonong Trails School, and to teaching in general, really. I’ve always been into science and math, and I originally set out to become a geologist. A few years into graduate school, however, I realized that the research scientist life was not for me. Instead, I found my purpose in the classroom. More specifically, in an alternative classroom placement for my student teaching, where I learned the importance of building and sustaining student relationships. From there, I found the other pieces that make up my teaching routine — project-based learning, place-based education, environmental education, restorative practices, etc.

I’ve been teaching for fifteen years now, but this is only my second year at my current school and my first in my current role. No matter what this career brings me, I’m still learning and growing, and I don’t ever plan to stop.

How do you move past challenges in your job?

When I face challenges in my job — and they sure seem to come at the least convenient times — I have to remember that I’m never alone in this work. Asking for help can be tough, but there are always allies and co-conspirators that I can turn to. I just have to slow down, take a breath or two, and look for them. Recently, our school has experienced some fairly major challenges, and what I’ve been really touched by is just how many folks have reached out and stepped in to help. Parents, colleagues, students — all of them want us to succeed, and they want to contribute to that success. Keeping that in mind in the middle of a challenging day can be really tough, but it sure helps.

Can you tell us about a time you felt you impacted a student for life?

One of the sayings I’ve long repeated to my students is, “I love you and I’m proud of you.” I think that older students especially don’t hear those words enough. I’m privileged to be able to teach the same students for as many as six consecutive years, so I get to see the longer-term impact of my work over time, which I know is something many teachers aren’t able to do. S — is a student I’ve known for even longer because she was the younger sibling of an alum, so I first met her as a nine-year-old attending school events with her family. Last spring, when I returned to my previous school for their graduation ceremony, I saw that S — had decorated her graduation cap with my phrase and a red-winged blackbird, which anyone who knows me knows is my favorite bird. I teared up knowing that my words held such an impact on her. It was a great reminder that students are always listening, and our words make a difference to them.

What does “the art of teaching” mean to you?

As a former scientist, it was a little hard for me to embrace my “artistic side” when I became a teacher. But the longer I work in education the more distrustful I am of any “science of [insert subject]”. Everyone involved in education — students, teachers, families, staff — is a human being, and I think that human beings are inherently unquantifiable and unpredictable.

That’s what I love most about teaching, really. It’s an art that I will never master because it offers infinite avenues for learning and growth.

Since I found The Art of Teaching community right around the start of the COVID pandemic and remote learning, I’ve learned from countless other educators and grown through my own reflective writing. I’m grateful that this space exists and keeps evolving, and that I’ve been able to contribute to it in my own small way.

Skylar L. Primm (he/him) is lead teacher at Koshkonong Trails School, a project- and place-based school in Cambridge, Wisconsin. In 2017, he was the recipient of a Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship in recognition of his teaching, leadership, and service, and in 2021 he was named the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education’s Formal Educator of the Year. You can keep up with his work at and contact him at

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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

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McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas

Helping educators and students find their path to what’s possible. No matter where the starting point may be.