News-AZ Republic

9 teachers in metro Phoenix named Rodel Exemplary Teachers

Arizona Republic – November 30, 2015

Nine teachers in Maricopa County and six others statewide were named a Rodel Exemplary Teacher.

The Scottsdale-based Rodel Foundation of Arizona annually selects extraordinary teachers and asks them to mentor high-potential student teachers. The teachers are selected based on their students’ achievement in high-needs schools, principal recommendations and observations by Rodel officials.

This year’s local winners teach in schools in Buckeye, Chandler, El Mirage, Glendale, Mesa and Phoenix. The winning teachers will receive $2,500 and agree to mentor student teachers.

The foundation partners with Arizona colleges of education and teacher preparation programs to pair Rodel Exemplary Teachers with promising student teachers. The goal is to provide soon-to-be teachers with role models who are succeeding in the classroom.

The Rodel Foundation provided insights from each of the Valley’s winning teachers.

Lauren Delfino-Karl

Lauren Delfino-Karl has spent eight years in education and teaches second grade at San Marcos Elementary School in the Chandler Unified District. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and a masters from Northern Arizona University.

On engaging students

Keeping students engaged in learning is one of the many arts of teaching. In my classroom, it is important that I involve students in their own learning.
Having hands-on activities where students can manipulate materials, hypothesize about a problem and share their thoughts with others enhances
their desire to learn more about a topic.

I also help students set goals for themselves because there is no greater motivation than the satisfaction of meeting or exceeding your own high expectations for yourself.

Tip for parents

If I could give parents one tip that could help their children be successful in school, it would be to lead by example. Be the person you want your child to
become. I have frustrated parents come to me and say, “I cannot get my child to read. They just won’t do it.”

I ask politely, “Do you read?”

Children model what they see. If children see their parents reading, observe them helping others, see them coming to school events and parent-teacher conferences, they will follow in their footsteps. They will see that these things are important and that their education has value.

On learning from a mentor

I had a professor who shared the greatest analogy that I have thought of often for over 10  years. She said, “Think of students as having poker chips. Some students have an abundance of chips because they have parents who tell them they love them and they get compliments about how smart they are. Then, there are those students who don’t have any chips at all. Perhaps no one at home tells them they care or they hear only of the wrong things they do.”

As a teacher, I want to give my students as many poker chips as I can because every child deserves and needs kind words, encouragement and love.

Amy Tixier

Amy Tixier has spent five years in education and teaches third grade at Inca Elementary School in the Buckeye Elementary School District. She earned a bachelor’s and masters degrees from Northern Arizona University and is pursing a doctoral degree at Grand Canyon University.

On engaging students

I develop lessons that are meaningful, hands-on, collaborative and applicable to real-life situations. I also make sure to properly scaffold instruction so that my students can build self-efficacy and confidence to be successful learners.

I always try to connect with my students and get to know them individually to build a relationship of trust, care and concern that enhances the classroom environment and the level of student contribution.

On data-driven decisions

Student achievement data helps me to make informed decisions regarding the academic placement of my students and the strategies and interventions
I can implement to ensure that all of my students are successful. I use formal and informal assessment practices to guide my instruction and to create differentiated lessons that will meet the needs of my diverse group of students.

I also use student achievement data to inform my small group instruction and help in the creation of long- and short-term academic goals for all my students.

On learning from a mentor

One lesson I have learned from a mentor is that lessons should be fun, engaging and collaborative. Some students learn best when they are planning, collaborating, creating and sharing their knowledge with others.

The creation of a student-centered classroom that takes into account the needs of students and the strategies that will best engage them in learning will assist them in developing the mindset that learning is fun. Students that enjoy learning are more successful.

Jennifer Ruiz

Jennifer Ruiz has spent 11 years in education and teaches sixth grade at Hawthorne Elementary School in the Mesa Public Schools. She earned a bachelors degree from University of Arizona and a masters degree from Grand Canyon University.

On collaborating for student success

I am constantly looking for new ways to help my students learn and to close the achievement gap. Collaborating with my colleagues provides me with opportunities to learn what has been effective for others, which I can then implement in my own classroom, helping my students to succeed.

Additionally, I have brought in many experts from the community to teach my students in areas that are not my specialty. Some of these experts have
come from Salt River Project, Scholastic, Mesa Police Department and Junior Achievement.

Bragging rights

My greatest source of pride about my students is that I have helped each of them to develop a growth mindset and, as a result, they are challenging themselves and one another to continue learning daily — beyond what they initially thought they could.

We have also created an environment in which each student feels safe and empowered to take risks in class in order to learn.

A tip for new teachers

I would want new teachers to know that teaching is an art, and it is not easy. As a teacher, you are constantly learning and adjusting. Things are not always going to go as planned, and that is okay. How you respond in such situations is what matters most.

Shannon Perna

Shannon Perna has spent eight years in education and teaches sixth grade at Palomino Intermediate School in the Paradise Valley Unified District.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and has a master’s degree.

A tip for new teachers
I believe that the most important thing to remember is that we never stop learning. We all make mistakes, but the key is to learn from those mistakes. If a lesson doesn’t go well, reflect on it and improve with each coming lesson because each day is a new start in your classroom.

Another piece of advice is to ask for help if you need it; teachers are more successful if we help one another instead of trying to go it alone.

I also am a big believer in planning. In my opinion, a teacher can’t plan enough. If you are not planning properly, students will pick up on that and lessons will not improve over time. In order to set yourself up for success, plan accordingly.

Bragging rights

Our school has an amazing staff that is focused on doing whatever we can to help our students receive the best education we can possibly give them. As a staff, we are always learning new teaching strategies and striving to learn from one another. The staff members I have the privilege to work with are
the best teachers I know and I learn from them constantly.

My classroom is a unique family that centers on going to college. Everything we do in class pertains to reaching the ultimate goal of attaining a college degree. The classroom is full of school spirit and each student will proudly state where he or she is going to college when asked. My students know that their dreams are reachable and their futures are bright. We work hard to move toward our goals, one lesson at a time.

Learning from a mentor
I have learned so much and continue to learn from many educator mentors.
I was fortunate to be a Rodel Promising Student Teacher paired with Damon Timm, a Rodel Exemplary Teacher. I learned to be passionate about my students and to be consistent with them in order to create a safe learning environment. I know that students can do anything they set their minds to
and that my attitude determines whether they believe that about themselves or not. I saw Mr. Timm’s passion for his students and his profession, and it has given me permission to be excited about each class, every year I am in the classroom.

I have also learned to communicate with parents regularly so that my families know I care about their children and want the best for them. I use many strategies from Mr. Timm and I am forever grateful for  that experience.

Sarah Mikula

Sarah Mikula has spent eight years in education and is a sixth- through eighth-grade special education teacher at Maurice C. Cash Elementary School in the Laveen Elementary School District. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Francis University.

On collaborating for student success

Collaborating with colleagues is one of the most important and beneficial aspects of my job.

As a special education teacher I need to communicate with my fellow teachers on a daily basis. This allows me to make sure my students are receiving the appropriate accommodations and modifications they need to make progress in their general education classroom and in my resource classroom.

A tip for parents

One tip I would give parents is to be involved in their child’s education. When your child comes home from school, ask them what they learned. This shows them that you care about school and that they should too.

Also make sure to advocate for their needs. If you feel your child is not receiving the support they need, please share that concern. Parents are one of the most important tools to help a child be successful in school.

On learning from a mentor

One lesson I learned from a mentor was that you learn from your students just as much as they learn from you. Your classroom is a community and everyone in that community should share their thoughts and ideas with each other. This helps build rapport while ensuring that the students feel safe in their environment.

Ann Lively

Ann Lively has spent 29 years in education and teaches fifth- and sixth-grade language arts and social studies at Horizon School in the Glendale Elementary School District.

She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Arizona State University.

A tip for parents

The tip that I give parents every year is that it is vitally important for them to be advocates for their child. They were their child’s first teacher and it is critical for them to value their child’s education and understand that these formative years are establishing work ethic that will follow them into adulthood. Education is powerful.

A tip for new teachers

The most important tip that I would give a new teacher is that you must create a balance between your work life and your personal life. In our profession, it is very hard to separate the two. Teachers think and worry about our students all the time and many times we put our personal lives on the back burner. I would recommend they dedicate one late night a week, and set an ‘end time’ each day.

Learning from a mentor

A valuable lesson that I learned from my parents, my most important mentors, was to give back to the community in which I was educated. I was lucky to have been hired by the school district that I attended as a child. It is also the very same district in which both of my parents were teachers and where my father was an administrator. My parents taught me that all children deserve to have the best teachers and the highest quality education. I made that my goal.

Danielle Johnson

Danielle Johnson has spent eight years in education and teaches sixth grade at Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School in the Phoenix Elementary School District.

He earned a bachelors degree from Langston University, a masters degree from University of Central Oklahoma and a teacher certificate from Rio Salado College.

On collaborating for student success

I co-teach with an awesome and amazing special education teacher who brings another perspective to the classroom. Students are able to learn the same objective from different points of view and using different methods. This is very beneficial to our students.

A tip for new teachers

Build a strong, fair and caring community in your classroom to foster an environment conducive to learning.

A tip for parents

Parents should use daily inquiry, asking “What did you learn today?”

Being involved and holding students accountable by asking questions and having their student explain and show examples of what they have learned in school daily helps students become and continue to be successful in school.

Meredith Hey

Meredith Hey has spent 13 years in education and teaches fourth and fifth grade at Irving Elementary School in the Mesa Public Schools.

She earned a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree from Northern Arizona University.

A tip for new teachers

Allow students the time to work together. Give them the opportunity to learn from one another, to struggle and process through the learning together with guidance from the teacher without just giving them the answers. This will help them to become confident in their learning and in their abilities.

Bragging rights

My greatest source of pride comes from the students in my classroom each day. They come to school with a desire to learn and a willingness to work together with each other and with me to reach their learning goals.

On engaging students

Getting to know your students’ likes and dislikes makes keeping them engaged in learning easy. Designing lessons around their interest levels helps to draw them into the lesson and gives meaning to what they are learning. Encouraging the students to work together and to engage in conversation allows them to learn new insights from each other and holds them accountable to their fellow classmates to bring something to the learning community.

Denise Hall

Denise Hall has spent 21 years in education and teaches second-grade at Riverview School in the Dysart Unified School District.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and a masters degree from Northern Arizona University.

On engaging students

Students need to be active participants in their learning. They should also be given choices to increase engagement in the learning process. I use songs to teach geography, Kagan structures to master grammar, ‘power whooshes’ to celebrate learning (something I learned from a past Quantum Learning training), brain breaks to wake up our minds, technology to tie into the world around us, hands-on activities to make learning real and choice menus to make learning individualized.

Learning from a mentor

My greatest mentor was my mother. When I was young, she taught in a very poor area of West Virginia. I really can’t remember what grades or subjects she taught, but I remember her buying extra coats to hand out in winter and attending her students’ music recitals and sporting events. She always seemed to know exactly what each child needed. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

Bragging rights

When Rodel’s observation team came to visit my classroom, they pointed out two situations where my students took it upon themselves to be sure everyone was included in the learning activity. That is what makes my heart fill with pride. Those are the stories I shared with my colleagues when they asked how my observation went that day. It was no longer about me or my lesson. It was about the sense of community we have created in our classroom.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/education/2015/11/30/9-teachers-metro-phoenix-named-rodel-exemplary-teachers/76242274/