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Lex.-Rich. 5 Teacher of the Year: 'It must be fun!'

What inspired you to choose teaching as a career?

We often think of an exemplary teacher as having had a positive influence on our lives. My first grade teacher did much more. She was the biggest influence in my decision to become a teacher. Though she was a very strict and extremely academic teacher, I was actually terrified of her. In second grade I got the same stern and frightening teacher again as I was placed in an accelerated class with first- and second-graders. I experienced another year of learning, but with the same fear as before. Even at that young age, I was convinced that teachers could be both academic and caring, and I was determined to become a nurturing teacher.

If you were not an educator, what would you like to do for a living?

Reading a great book aloud to students is extremely magical. So many things are involved, such as different voices, mood, tone and expressions. Good teachers can make books come alive. Much like reading books aloud are the voices for animated movies for children. It would be so exciting to have the opportunity to do the voices for animation.

What one thing have you borrowed from your favorite teacher that you use in your classroom?

A retired kindergarten teacher at our school, Barbara Peterson, taught me the ability to positively redirect a wayward student with a big smile on her face. I often observed her and yearned to master her manner of classroom management. I was inspired by her smile and the gentle way she redirected a misbehaving student all while masterfully teaching a wonderful lesson to a larger group of students. She was an incredibly talented teacher and I learned so much from her.

Describe how you learned you were named Teacher of the Year in your district, and how you celebrated.

I was named District Teacher of the Year at the district's end-of-the-year celebration. I had no idea that my family and friends were discreetly hiding in the back of the room until the announcement was made. My ESOL colleagues, friends and family followed me home for an impromptu celebration.

What recognition did you receive for being named District Teacher of the Year?

I have had the pleasure of being recognized at breakfasts and chamber luncheons. I have been asked to present at regional and statewide conferences, as well as staff development sessions. I am especially proud of the fact that my school, Seven Oaks Elementary, has been recognized for producing a District Teacher of the Year. It is equally gratifying to be able to promote our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program as the District's Teacher of the Year. I feel that our wonderfully diverse students have received recognition, and it has been exciting to showcase their abilities.

What would your students say you are best known for?

Fun! The ESOL classroom is designed to provide students with a safe and nurturing environment and, most of all, make learning fun!

Every lesson, game and activity is purposely designed to meet the students' needs in a small, multicultural group. Listening, speaking, reading and writing English is made fun through content subjects like math, science, social studies and language arts. Our class rule is, "It must be fun!"

As one fifth-grade student said, "This class is fun and we learn in a different way. We kind of teach ourselves."

How do you see current economic conditions affecting your classroom, and how do you try to counteract that?

I am forced to constantly think about my students and our classroom's many needs and consider if there are alternative means to acquire them or if there are ways to improvise.

On a more positive note, we have used the poor economy to teach students to consider recycling and energy conservation. Hopefully, discussions and actions about what we throw away, reuse or save will have a permanent impact on our students' lives for many years to come.

What one item could you never do without in your classroom, and why?

Without question, technology. Technological tools such as SMARTboards, interactive "white boards" connected to a computer, allow students to self-direct instruction with just the touch of a finger. Likewise, the entire class is engaged in instruction through access to the World Wide Web, with one student driving the instruction from the seemingly magical board.

What has been your most memorable classroom moment over the past year?

I was recently approached by a teacher of an ESOL kindergarten student who was struggling with the concept of inappropriate words (expletives). She asked if I could help with this sensitive problem.

I explained how there were certain words that cannot be used in school. Together, the student and I developed a list of words on a piece of paper and used a trashcan to throw away the words not to be used in school again. I used this opportunity to teach the entire class about "bad" words and told them to feel comfortable coming to me with any suspicious words. I would then tell them whether or not the words were appropriate for school.

The next day the classroom door opened and the same student yelled "Is "Don't go there!" a bad word?" The following day, he came in with, "Tartar sauce! Is that a bad word?"

Each day he brought us more expressions. I was amused by the words he brought me from cartoons or from eavesdropping on conversations. I was thrilled to see that he was beginning to recognize that voice inflections and some situations meant that "bad" words were often spoken. He was rapidly teaching the other ESOL students about the appropriate use of language. This was indeed a memorable lesson.

If you are named a finalist for S.C. Teacher of the Year, who will be the first non-relative you call?

I would call my principal and know that she would spread the word.


Age: 57

School: Seven Oaks Elementary

Subject: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

Years at Seven Oaks: 24

Years as an educator: 28

Family: Married to Satch Krantz; two sons, Eric and David

Academic credentials: Early childhood and elementary background. Certified to teach ESOL K-12.

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