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HAMMOND | Raquel Sterczek, first-grade teacher at Morton Elementary School, believes creativity and family involvement is the key to students becoming engaged in the learning process.

Sterczek differentiates instruction, uses hands-on activities and implements technology in her teaching style. She believes innovative teaching techniques ensure that each class learning experience becomes a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Her class has its own website,, boasting more than 47,000 views and updated frequently with new projects and lessons.

This year's website theme is "First Grade Rocks." The site opens with animation and a recorded single of "The Wheels on the Bus" sung by the first-graders.

The website is easy to navigate, with links to parents, students, Ms. Sterczek, fans, announcements, awards, projects and more. "It's nice for students to show their families what they do each day in class. It helps (foster) parent involvement," Stercrzeksaid.

"The best part of teaching is watching my students blossom as learners. The change is dramatic. . .just compare a tiny seed with a full grown sunflower," Sterczek added.

Vibrant decorations, learning posters, homemade crafts and projects consume every inch of classroom wall space. In the center is the Chunky Monkey Word Chunk Palm Tree, where the class keeps word chunks to enhance writing and reading skills.

A typical science lesson has students performing an experiment in front of their peers dressed up like a junior Einstein. Sterczek provides a wig, pair of glasses, lab coat and even a mustache for the students to use while presenting their projects.

Sterczek began teaching at Morton in 1998, when she was offered a 12-week substitute position that has become a career.

"The hours are countless. At the primary level, there is a lot of preparation in lessons. I always keep them moving so boredom doesn't set in," said Sterczek.

Aside from teaching, Sterczek spends time with her family and enjoys running and exercising. Connecting to family inspired her to create a classroom blog where she communicates with her students' families daily to keep parents involved in the learning process.