A shout-out for some great teachers (part 3)

22 Jun

Today I present the third — and final — installment of my teacher shout-out series, highlighting some great teachers and the amazing job they did this year. (Scroll down the page a bit or click here to see Part 1, and here to see Part 2.)

Thank you to everyone who sent in submissions. I’ve gotten some very nice emails from some of the teachers who’ve been recognized, and I can’t put into words how much your comments mean to them. One teacher wrote, “During a very challenging marathon of a school year, your blog … hugged and resuscitated my fatigued heart.”  

She was very kind to say that. But really, it’s YOUR sentiments and YOUR gratitude that are making the difference to these fine educators.

Teaching more than just the ABCs

We would like to recognize a huge asset to WCSD, Teresa Johnston. She was my son’s AMAZING remote kindergarten teacher, and constantly showed her commitment to and for 5 and 6-year old students through her loving nature. She filled the screen to engage students and teach foundational life-long practices that go beyond phonics and adding (though she did this too!). We are forever grateful to her for the big and little lessons that she taught, and hope that she knows what a big impact she has made!

— Jen Liberatore

A “Broadway performance”

Due to medical reasons within our family we made the decision of remote learning for our first grader. To be honest, we went into the start of school not expecting much learning and the first day was filled with tears of regret…. until we met his teacher.

Mrs. Wagner is a once-in-a-lifetime teacher. Her personality absolutely beamed through the screen. She took on one of the hardest positions a teacher could have…remote teaching. She had the kids engaged and excited to learn every day! My son Blake LOVED remote learning! Each day I was in awe of her and how she was able to keep the attention of such a young age group.

He was also receiving the remote support of literacy specialist Mrs. Zieser. I was in awe of how Mrs. Zeiser could not only keep Blake’s attention but had him excited for his extra reading learning time. Our son was thriving beyond our wildest dreams and on the last remote day there were tears of absolute gratitude.

When school changed to full-time we were given the medical clearance to send our first grader to in-person learning. While excited to be back in school, our son was very nervous for his first day. Until he got off the bus and one of his “superheroes” was there to greet him.

Klem North P. E. teacher Mr. Carpenter is also a once-in-a-lifetime teacher. He was standing outside of Blake’s bus as it pulled into Klem North and greeted our son with a loud and excited “HI BLAKE, WELCOME BACK!” He said his fears were gone and Mr. Carpenter even showed him how to get to his new classroom.

I could send you many more stories highlighting not only the teachers but the staff there as well. From the secretaries Mrs. Pixley and Mrs. Cucchiara and Nurse Peters checking on him his first few days, to his new teacher Mrs. Bourchard welcoming him to the in-person learning experience and supporting him on the experience of being in school. I would often ask how he was doing and she would always respond with how “he” as a child was doing, not just the benchmarks of learning.

There were lunch staff members who came over on his first day of school when “his leg couldn’t stop shaking” and made him feel better. Per Blake, “the custodial staff members were always waving and making the kids feel safe vs. scared.”

Klem North is known as Klem North Stars and that’s truly what these teachers and staff members are. I could take up your entire article with the many stories that Blake would come home and tell me about the teachers and staff members creating an environment of fun. Never once did he say that someone looked frustrated or upset. This year was like a Broadway performance and they all deserve a standing ovation because when that curtain went up each day, they stepped into the spotlight with a smile and excitement and that these kids so deserved. We are forever grateful.

— Jaime Richey

P.S. Music class became a family bonding opportunity. Every time Blake’s little brothers heard it was music time they would run to the computer and join along. Sometimes hidden in the background and sometimes full face in the screen. Instead of it feeling stressful and “inappropriate,” Plank North music teacher Sarah Mossey would greet them with a big smile and hello and make them feel welcomed. They listened, they learned and they got to experience some musical magic! 

This last submission, from Penfield, is a long one. But the story is one that many of us have experienced, and it captures the essence of the amazing job our teachers are doing with our kids, and why we are honoring them.

A thanks to Ms. Heinsler from a grateful grandparent

On Monday, my six-year old grandson, Finn, kicked his teacher. On Tuesday, he did it again. On Wednesday, his parents thought it best if he take a break from school so he spent the day with me, his grandfather. Finn is a beautiful boy; bright blue eyes, with long eyelashes a brilliant smile, even if he’s missing a front tooth, and a curiosity that is boundless. He’s very smart, intuitive, and creative. He has a hard time controlling his outbursts of emotion. Finn is a behavioral health needs child. On that Wednesday I asked him, who are the most important people in the world?

“The presidents,” he said.

“No,” I answered.

“The firemen?”

“No, not the firemen, not the policemen, not the doctors or the nurses, the most important people in the world are the teachers.”

Finn said nothing, but I could see he was mulling this over.

“Without teachers, there would be no firemen or policemen or even the president. Everyone of them had teachers.”

Finn has history. He’s been removed from four day cares and two summer camps. He bit around fifty children in three months. At home he could be very difficult. He kicked out the screen on his bedroom window and went out onto the roof. He emptied shampoo bottles and toothpaste for no apparent reason, and stuffed things in the bathroom drain. He’s knocked the thermostat off the wall twice. If you have a special needs child, then I understand the permanent knot in your stomach. I have it too.

Enter Nichole Heinsler, kindergarten teacher, Scribner Road Elementary School. If you are lucky enough to find a teacher like her for your child, you weep with relief. Yes, she is the same one that he’s kicked, but he loves her, and she loves him. She could have given up on him throughout this very difficult pandemic year. (He’s pulled over bookshelves, and stood on his desk, refusing to do any work he didn’t want to.)

She could have said he’s beyond the scope of her ability or willingness. We’ve heard that before. She could have used any excuse at all and no one would have found fault. She didn’t.

Nichole Heinsler’s positive attitude, her professionalism, and her love for her children make her a miracle to our Finn. She sent home daily reports on Finn. They were honest, both the good and bad. She has become an integral part of Finn’s “team.” And now, one school year later, Finn has an excellent grasp of math, and he’s sounding out words. He now plays restaurant with me and on his pad, he sounds out my order. It’s astonishing to me. Yes, he still has special needs and the work will continue, but thanks to Ms. Heinsler he has a good start, and he’s on par with his peers academically. From a boy who had no interest in learning schoolwork, he now tells me about symbols.

“Did you know, Grandpa, that the eagle is a symbol of strength?”

“Yes, I knew that.”

“And the White House is a symbol of the president?”

“Yes,” I said,” I know that too.” I had to turn away so he wouldn’t see the water in my eyes.

Thanks you Ms. Heinsler. May you live forever.

— Grandpa Joe

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