Tribute to an Exemplary Teacher

Teacher With Students
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Teachers have a tough job, probably more so today than ever before. In my son's years of schooling from preschool to high school graduation, he had a couple not so great teachers, and one very toxic teacher. I don't doubt that most of the others tried their best to be great teachers, but I will say that my son had only one that was truly great. Don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing or diminishing the other teachers (except the toxic one) in any way.

Some were quite good and I am grateful for what they tried to do for my son. But one was exemplary. That teacher was my son's preschool teacher, Janet Marovich. So what exactly made Mrs. Marovich such a great teacher?

The Preschool

To understand what a remarkable teacher Mrs. Marovich was, you have to understand her school environment. The preschool also functioned as a daycare center for students attending the commuter college where I worked at the time. The place was small. It had two rooms, one of which included a kitchenette, tables and chairs and a TV with a VCR. The other room was a little smaller and was the room where Janet had her desk and computer and where there were a few tables for the kids to sit to do crafts. It was also the room where kids took naps.

Very few of the kids attended every day or stayed at the center from open to close. Only a couple staff members brought their kids everyday to the center.

Most, like my son, were dropped off when their parent went to classes and were picked up when their parent's classes were done. That means that kids came and went all day long. The kids who attended weren't all the same age either. The only rule was that a child had to be potty trained in order to attend, so some were as young as two.

Parents of school age kids could also bring their kids to the center when their schools were not in session, so there were days when the center had kids from age two up to age eleven or even twelve. It was a truly multiage environment. Remember, this was all in two rooms. It was never crowded, though, because the kids were not all there at the same time.

Janet's Responsibilities

Janet was the director of the center. She was also the head teacher. Working under her were two or three aides, but not usually at the same time. Most often it was just Janet and one of her aides. As the director, Janet oversaw all the activities of the center and provided guidance to the aides. She was also the main teacher for all the kids. Her classroom management skills were truly awesome.

She would talk with parents, complete paperwork, read to the children, help them with their lunches, give them snacks, direct the aides, and help with with crafts, as well as any short lessons she might deem appropriate, lessons that would help prepare the little ones for reading, for example.

Janet had environmental print around the rooms and also had the names of various objects on cards taped on or by them, so the children would become familiar with the words for those objects. Throughout the day, she would ask a child about the object. For example, while helping a child wash his hands in the bathroom, she might point to the soap and to the word on the card and ask the child what it was. Lessons were often quite informal.

Interacting with the Children

I never once saw Janet favor one child over another. I never saw her frustrated, frazzled or upset. She always took the time to talk with a parent when they came in to drop their child off, and if a child wanted her attention while she was speaking to a parent, she would pick up the child and put him on her lap if he was small enough, or hold his hand and draw him close to her, while letting the child know she was talking to Mrs. So and So and would be right with him. In other words, Janet showed respect to everyone, including the youngest child in the room.

Janet also made every single child feel special. She knew the abilities and interests of every child that attended and she did her best to nurture those abiltities and encourage those interests. And her best was extremely good. She treated every single one of those children under her care as individuals. For example, she knew my son could read and didn't take or need to take naps. So while he did have to lie still during nap time, she allowed him to read - whatever he wanted to read.

Janet would also ask my son to read to the other kids during a mini-circle time. She would be busy with some other kids, so she'd ask my by then four-year old to read to the little ones. They loved it. He loved it. And no child was jealous. No child thought Janet was showing special attention to my son - because she found what was special in each child and made each one feel special.

An Example to All Teachers

I have often said that Janet spoiled me. She made her work with the children look effortless and I expected all teachers to be like her. Sadly, none came close. But that doesn't mean they were all bad. It just means that Janet was exceptional. When I said she was exemplary, I meant that literally. She was the kind of teacher that should be held up as an example for all teachers.

When you consider what Janet's responsibilities were and the kind of environment in which she worked, you come to realize how remarkable of a teacher she was. Is teaching hard? Absolutely. And that is what makes Janet all the more special. Janet showed us that it is possible to treat all children as inviduals and make them all feel special even in less than ideal circumstances.

So here's to you, Janet - and all the great teachers like you.

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