Details for Teachers of Excellence - June

JUNE 2019 Teachers Profile STEPHANIE OLSON, Seventh grade Col. John Wheeler Middle School, Crown Point Profile MELINDA WEISS, Eighth grade Language Arts teacher, Robert A. Taft Middle School, Crown Point of excellence Recognizing Excellence in Teaching Through Dedication, Compassion & Knowledge LAKE COUNTY Why Teaching is More Than a Day Job: For Stephanie Olson, Purdue University alumna, teaching is about more than helping her students solve equations. Teaching means guiding her students through the day-to-day triumphs and trials of middle school. “I love getting to know my students beyond the classroom,” she says. “I enjoy when students feel that they can come talk to me about things going on in their lives because they feel I’m not just a math teacher to them. Seventh grade is such a difficult year for kids, and I’m always available to listen. I also enjoy when a student who’s always struggled in math begins to understand the material, and you can see the confidence change in them throughout the year.” In her twelfth year of teaching, Olson also spends her summers volunteering at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for children who’ve been abused or neglected. FavoriTe ParT oF Teaching: Memories of gratitude fuel Olson through the school year and beyond. Sincere thank you notes are invaluable, as are thoughtful gestures and gifts of appreciation. Olson recalls one student who spent her own money to buy Olson M&M’s, Olson’s favorite candy. “To think that a student is willing to use her own money to give me a gift is so sweet and is very much appreciated.” And these gestures become treasured memories. Why Teaching is More Than a Day Job: As the child of parents who immigrated to the United States from Italy, Melinda Weiss recalls that the value of an education was stressed early and often throughout her childhood. She remembers summers in which her siblings and she had to complete “school work” and chores before they could go out to play to reinforce their skills. The hard work paid off, as Weiss’s sisters are elementary school teachers, her brother is a school principal, and Weiss is in her twenty-fourth year of teaching language arts at Robert A. Taft Middle School. “I’ve always had a passion for English,” she says. “It makes me smile when students tell me they’ve finally mastered a concept they’ve struggled with in the past.” FavoriTe ParT oF Teaching: Near the end of the school year, students complete a letter-writing activity in which each student writes to three teachers who have had an affect on him or her in the three years of middle school – one teacher from each grade level. Weiss says: “Over the years, I’ve acquired a number of heartfelt letters in which students reflected on their year and experience with me. It’s truly an honor to receive a letter from each student, and I cherish these letters so much that I actually save each one. Some of these letters have such beautifully-written content that they elicit an emotional, but positive, response from me.” PORTER COUNTY ® Profile Why Teaching is More Than a Day Job: Elsa Wilson and her family moved to Kouts three years ago so her children, now in fourth and sixth grades, could be part of the East Porter County School system. “It’s been a huge blessing to be able to work in the same four-star school system that my children attend,” Wilson says. As a kindergarten teacher, Wilson loves instilling a solid sense of self-worth in her students. “I’m thrilled when I see a child begin to read or catch on to new math concepts, but I feel most successful as a teacher when a child knows he or she is loved. I’m honored that I get to spend the first year of a child’s true school experience with them.” FavoriTe ParT oF Teaching: The best moments of the school year are the ones filled with laughter, Wilson says. “My favorite memories always include moments when I get to laugh with the children. Whether it’s doing a science experiment together, reading funny stories, or making teepees in our classroom, the best times are when I see the children having fun while their learning.” Another recent special moment for Wilson was when one of the students from her first kindergarten class, now in her junior year of college, shared that Wilson had inspired her to become a teacher. Why Teaching is More Than a Day Job: “This is my first year teaching in the Duneland School Corp.,” says Michael Diaz. “I’m teaching fourth grade, and I feel like this is my new ‘forever home.’ ” Diaz previously taught fifth grade in the Michigan City Area School Corp. He especially loves watching his students become engrossed in books. “I love seeing the real reactions on students’ faces when they get sucked into a book. When I’m nurturing an emotional connection with students through a love of reading, it makes each year an educational journey that my students and I get to experience together.” Diaz is also the assistant coach for the Chesterton High School Boys and Girls Swim Team as well as the Duneland Swim Club Assistant Senior Coach. FavoriTe ParT oF Teaching: There’s nothing Diaz loves more than seeing his students realize that they’ve achieved educational milestones. “I love seeing students get their own ‘aha’ moments and knowing that they’ve worked hard to reach that point. We laugh, learn, and grow together each and every year. Nothing in the world can beat that feeling when a student has reached their goal and all their hard work has paid off. Teaching isn’t something that I went into for me. I went into teaching for the students.”” ELSA WILSON, Kindergarten teacher, Morgan Township Elementary School, Valparaiso Profile MICHAEL DIAZ, Fourth Grade teacher, Yost Elementary School, Porter Exclusively Valparaiso • Merrillville • Chicago P assion • C ommitment • e xCellenCe K en a llen l aw . Com (877)G o w ith K en Kenneth J. Allen Law Group, LLC, 1109 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN, responsible for content.

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