Monday, December 5, 2016

Teacher Stories 1: "being a teacher is just who I am"

Today, I am starting a series of interviews of teachers that I plan to continue through the school year. Because I am now the editor of the Huth Road Elementary School PTA's newsletter, I have the opportunity to interview teachers so that people could get to know the teachers a little better. Unfortunately, there is not enough space in the newsletter to tell the teachers' complete stories. 

I have interviewed four teachers thus far, and I asked each one for permission to share their stories in my blog. They graciously agreed for me to do so.

I hope that you enjoy the teacher stories. I start today with a second-grade teacher.

Karen Koslowski began teaching second grade at Huth Road Elementary School in September. This is her eighteenth year of teaching. She taught at the elementary and middle school levels in Lancaster and Buffalo, before coming to Grand Island, where she taught math and English and Language Arts (ELA) in Veronica Connor Middle School. She was at the middle school for four years before being moved to Huth Road Elementary School. 

What was it like to change schools and grade levels?

I was shocked when I was told that I was being moved from middle school to second grade because I had been in a middle school classroom for twelve years. It felt like being a first-year teacher all over again, but I am so thrilled to say that, so far, it has been a most amazing year. Everything happens for a reason. I love this age group. I love what we are teaching, and I have a really amazing group of second-grade teachers that I work very closely with, so I am thrilled being here.”

How did you decide to become a teacher? 

My first degree was in fine arts. I graduated from Niagara University as a vocal performance major. I performed at Artpark and I did Buffalo theater, but I had horrible nerves. So I got into directing children’s theater. I realized how much I loved working with kids. They were open to experiencing new forms of theater, and they loved playing the games. They enjoyed learning so much. That made me appreciate the arts that much more. I went back to school to be a teacher, majoring in elementary education with a concentration in mathematics.

Tell me about your hopes for your students.

I hope to create independent thinkers. For me, as a teacher, it’s the journey that’s the actual learning. To get the students to feel comfortable with the idea that it takes time, and it takes mistakes, and it takes that motivation and perseverance and knowing that not everyone’s path is going to be the same. The journey that you take to get to that product is your learning path. It’s tough to get kids to see and understand that. They want to be done with it and move on to the next assignment.

Why is it OK to make a mistake?

A quotation that I like: “Mistakes are proof that you are trying.” There is this level of perfection. Obviously, you want to strive to be better than you were. But you have to learn something about yourself in that process.

Tell me about a classroom activity.

We’ve been working on sequencing. The plan was to read "The Three Little Pigs," and then we were going to talk about the setting, the characters, the order of events. At the last minute, I decided to switch all of the slides around because I had it on the interactive board. So, then, I started reading the story out of order. It wasn’t until I got to the fourth slide, where the title page was… they didn’t say anything until I got to that point, when they said "wait a minute, that isn’t the order of the book." They just kept the discussion going about how you have to start with the first pig, and they were using those writing words, first, next, etc. It was their discovery of it that made it so exciting for them, instead of just being told what sequencing is. I was acting like, oh, my goodness, I can’t tell the story in any order I want?

What about technology in the classroom?
In second grade, across the district, we have a one-to-one iPad classroom. So the students have access to their own iPad while at school. They are great. The kids work on reading comprehension, math facts, grammar, and spelling. They do fifteen minutes of keyboarding every day... it is a nice program to get them comfortable at a young age with a keyboard. It is very individualized instruction. They are not all reading the same books at the same pace. They don't all have the same spelling words. It allows the students to feel success, no matter what level they perform at.

How do you feel about your role as a teacher?

Being a teacher is just who I am. I love coming to work every day, no matter how tired I am or how much work we have to get done. The kids just make every day be an adventure because you never know what to expect each day.

I have 20 students in my classroom, and I have the opportunity every day to have a one-on-one conversation with every one of them.

December 19th: the first of three interviews with music teachers.


Alana said...

My late best friend was a retired fourth grade teacher. She also taught kindergarten and she may have taught a year of second grade (I forget if she did). School definitely isn't anything like what it was when I was in second grade (1959). iPads! I wouldn't recognize one of those classrooms. I was quite impressed by this interview. Your subject sounds like a born teacher. Her students are fortunate to have her as their teacher.

Ginny Marie said...

Moving from the middle school to second grade would be quite a shock! I taught second grade for 12 years, and now I teach preschool. That was an easy transition! I bet the kids loved that lesson on the Three Little Pigs, and they will remember the importance of sequencing!