Thank You, Ms. Fennell!
This was Ms. Fennell's first year teaching, but you would never know it from entering her virtual classroom. Despite the many challenges, Ms. Fennell has adjusted and thrived as a first year teacher. Whether cultivating community in her virtual classroom, collaborating closely with her coach, or building authentic relationships with her students and families, Ms. Fennell continues to showcase the essence of a great teacher.
Maria Lipperini, an Early Literacy Coach in our Philadelphia region took some time to shine a spotlight on Ms. Fennell. We asked Maria a few questions about her teacher honoree. See what she shared about Ms. Fennell below:
Q: What did your teacher identify as her children’s needs during this pandemic?
A: Ms. Fennell thinks critically about her students’ needs on a daily basis. Academically, she reviews data, student work, and in-class observations to determine where students need more support. She hones in on the foundational skills her first graders need in order to become successful readers and writers, such as letter recognition and letter sounds. She also thinks about the whole child; that is, not just their academic needs, but their social and emotional needs, too.
She is in tune with how students behave and respond in her class, and knows when a check-in is needed because a child is participating less, calling out more, or not turning on a camera. Knowing that her first graders might feel isolated in their Zoom classroom, Ms. Fennell looks for opportunities to get students engaged with one another, by allowing time for students to share their personal connections with what they are learning, making space for a community meeting at the start of the day, and utilizing Zoom breakout rooms so that students can interact with one another.
Q: How has your teacher shown resilience during this school year?
A: This is Ms. Fennell's first year teaching, but you would never know it from entering her virtual classroom. The first year of teaching can be overwhelming in any setting, with having to learn how to use new curricular materials, getting to know students and families, and applying instructional strategies for the first time. On top of all that, Ms. Fennell has had to learn how to use virtual learning platforms and how to deliver engaging lessons to students through a computer screen.
Throughout the year, Ms. Fennell has maintained a positive and solutions-oriented attitude. She is relentless in communicating with students and families, and participates whole-heartedly in coaching and professional development so that she can further develop her teaching craft. Even when technical difficulties arise, Ms. Fennell is patient and keeps her mindset positive!
Q: How has your teacher cultivated community within his/her classroom?
A: Ms. Fennell has built authentic relationships with her students and families, which is no small feat considering she's never met many of them in person! She does this by constantly reaching out to families both with positive feedback about students and with an eye for troubleshooting any challenges that arise. I've witnessed Ms. Fennell pause instruction on multiple occasions to connect with a family member of one of her students to ensure that student has what he or she needs to continue learning.
She has also sent home materials for students. In some cases, students were able to come to the school to do an outdoor pick up of these materials. Ms. Fennell made herself available so that they could see her in real life! Ms. Fennell starts each day with a community meeting that builds a positive classroom culture and teaches her students lessons about growth mindset and responding to emotions.
Q: How is the teacher creating some sense of normalcy within his/her classroom?
A: Ms. Fennell starts each day with a community meeting to set the tone for the day, and then consistently follows a daily instructional schedule so students know what to expect. Even though students are in their individual Zoom boxes on screen, Ms. Fennell encourages participation during her lessons, and gets students to interact with and respond to each other. She holds high expectations of students for engaging with the lessons and completing work, and checks in with individuals to provide feedback throughout her lessons. Students know what is expected when they sign into her class.
Q: How has your relationship with your teacher grown?
A: This is my first year working with Ms. Fennell and it has been such a pleasure. She engages in thoughtful conversations about her teaching craft and her students’ progress, and then turns these conversations into action in her classroom. As the year has progressed, our work together has grown to become more collaborative as Ms. Fennell’s confidence grows and as she gets to know her students better.
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SHARING OUR THANKS FOR TEACHERS
Celebrating Teachers on the Frontline
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