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Recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week – Monday, May 8, 2017

Joanne PaskaPhoto of students and staff



What do you do to engage your students? What makes your classroom unique?

My teaching philosophy and classroom environment is centered around reinforcing character traits and values that have been instilled at home. I constantly reinforce that best effort is important and that making mistakes is fine, since it is from our mistakes that we often learn the most. Respect, caring, and personal responsibility are traits that my students know I expect them to live by. Providing my students with the skills to be independent learners is something that I feel is important to their academic success. One thing that is special about my classroom is the value that I see in collaboration. Peer groups and partner activities are used frequently to reinforce learning.

photo of staff and students

What do you feel is the most exciting thing about teaching?

The most exciting thing about teaching is the daily interactions with my students. Fourth graders are very inquisitive and enjoy learning new things. I enjoy watching them make connections across curriculum areas as the various pieces of the learning puzzle come together for them. Through collaborative discussions, I learn lots about my students' individual personalities and learning styles. As all of us teachers say, "The kids are the best part of our jobs," and that is certainly true!!

What singular lesson plan, activity, assignment or experiment do you return to year after year because of its "spark" factor with you and/or your students?

The unit that ignites that spark of excitement in my students is my Native American unit. I begin by providing a few introductory lessons on this topic through group reading of various passages and watching a few videos. Once I have introduced key concepts about Native Americans, students choose a topic that interests them. They gather information on their chosen topic from various reading materials I have provided. The students eagerly look forward to reading and writing daily. Students write a report and make a poster, and often complete a project from their research. The unit's culmination is a sharing day where each student shares their expertise with their peers. Every year, when asked to reflect on favorite things of fourth grade, this unit is consistently mentioned!

Tell us a little more about yourself.

 I graduated from St. Mary's in Glens Falls and went to LeMoyne College. My graduate degree is from St. Joseph College in Vermont, and I've been teaching 17 years—all of them at Glens Falls City School District, at Sanford Street School and Kensington. My favorite subject to teach is math. The reason being, I love watching my students come to the realization that word problems can so often be approached and solved in more than one way. I enjoy teaching them various strategies to tackle challenging word problems.