Putting positive impact in writingPublished 1:44pm Thursday, March 11, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
This could be considered a tough stretch for teachers.
Already well into the school year, teachers may have spring break to look forward to but even so, today’s educators are faced with increasing demands through state mandates and statutes and a student population faced with plenty of concerns including an ever increasing competitive collegiate arena.
At Edwardsburg Middle School, however, on a seemingly ordinary day, each of the school’s teachers file into an open room, taking their place at round tables for a standard staff meeting while Edwardsburg High School freshman Josh Kozinski waits just inside the doorway.
Kozinski is there as part of a special activity principal Anthony Koontz has been fostering for years.
Koontz said for several years he has asked eighth-graders on their way to becoming high school freshman to submit short essays about a middle school teacher who had a positive impact on their educational experience.
“Which middle school teacher had the most positive impact on you?” Koontz asked students as sort of writing prompt for students.
Koontz said he would collect those essays, “and I’d read every single one.” Later, he’d share them with the teachers.
Now, he said he wanted to “take it a step further.”
He’s inviting those freshmen back to the school and allowing them to present their essay out loud to the teacher they’ve chosen.
That is why Kozinski is waiting by the door.
Standing next to Paula Miles, who teaches sixth and seventh grade science and sixth grade math, Kozinski told his former teacher he’d learned a lot as a student in her class, “such as responsibility, how to work hard and how to keep my head on straight.”
Kozinski thanked Miles for her part in his education and said he was “extremely happy” to have been in her class.
Bringing the students back has been a “neat experience” he said, adding, “a couple of times it’s gotten emotional.”
“Teachers need more positive strokes,” he said.
Also in Edwardsburg Middle School news, Koontz is taking extra steps to provide those students considered at-risk with the support and encouragement they need to succeed academically, and he has all of his teachers on board.
Koontz introduced a new program called “Build-a-Buddy” through which teachers choose three of their at-risk students and “focuses on their social, emotional and academic efforts for the duration of the school year.”
Each teacher will be made aware of the students who have been chosen throughout the school, the idea to create a collective effort to give those students the help they need and provide parents with the information they can use to help their students at school and at home improve in all areas of their academic careers.
Koontz asked teachers to make an effort to point out “positive behavior, effort and achievement.”
“Please praise,” he said, adding the encouragement heard within the classroom may be something some students don’t get at home.
Koontz said he would treat those students chosen by their teachers for the program to a year-end celebration to honor their achievement.