Mrs. Laura Kneisel
1. What Matters Most
"Bringing the student's world into the classroom is the most relevant act a teacher can perform." -Marc Robert
1. What Matters Most
By Laura Kneisel
If one were to ask me, “What matters most in my journey as a teacher?” I would respond in this way. What matters most to me is observing a student growing in self-esteem and confidence as a learner. I get jazzed when I see the “light” go on and the student gets it. I like to see students excited about learning, motivated and taking charge of their learning. Experiencing the “ah ha” moments and all the questions along the way. There was a defining moment that provided me with this direction or attitude about teaching. When I was an instructional assistant years ago in a Moderately Mentally Disabled classroom, I was assigned to a 3rd grade student with Down Syndrome for reading and writing instruction. This student was defiant and hated, hated, hated, reading and writing. The classroom that I assisted in had boring reading materials. Much of the reading was rote, rigid, and repetitive. BORING!!!! This student, I will call, “Matthew,” squirmed in his seat, got angry and decided to shut me out! After a couple of weeks of trying different methods to get him to get to task, I asked the classroom teacher if I could try an idea I had for Matthew. The idea was that Matthew and I would take pictures of things that interested him in the classroom and around the school. Once the pictures would be developed, both Matthew and I would compose the book together. The classroom teacher gave me permission to try out my idea.
The next day I came with my camera. I let Matthew lead me around the classroom and point out centers and activities he liked around the classroom. The next day I came back with the developed pictures and all the supplies needed to put his book together. I will always remember his excitement that day when we could make a book just for him! Needless to say, our reading/writing time together took on a new spin. Matthew could not wait to look at the pictures. As I opened the picture envelope, Matthew sat there grinning from ear to ear and clapping his hands together. I had Matthew put the pictures in the order he wanted for his book. Once he decorated his cover and created a title, glued the pictures in, he was ready to become the author of his book. Since his writing skills were weak, he would dictate to me and I wrote down his words. I incorporated basic questioning strategies such as, “Oh, what did I forget to put a the beginning of the sentence? OR “Matthew what goes at the end of my sentence? I forgot?” He then copied my modeled writing on to his book. When the book was finished, the next day he could not wait to read it! He wanted to read it to everyone in the classroom! This defining moment helped me realize that we all learn differently and when a student is creating and motivated about a task, the adventure begins.
Matthew and I wrote 15 books that year. He had his own mini-library in the classroom! His attitude for reading and writing took a complete turn around. Matthew’s new excitement carried over to his home. His Mom began doing the same with him at home. Monday mornings, Matthew would bring a new book he made over the weekend to read to the class during morning meeting. His peers looked forward to his books on Monday mornings. Other students in the class began to bring books to read during those morning meetings. I guess one could say Matthew’s excitement motivated his own peers to read.
This experience has been reflected over and over in my mind, as students proclaim to me, I can’t do it! I think of Matthew and how his, “I can’t,” became “I can’t wait to…” I have met many Matthews’ in my career, many that state, I can’t! I embrace that comment and count that my mission to turn the “ I can’t” into I can’t wait to… and this is what I believe matters the most.
I guess you could say that I am a "late bloomer!" I began my journey in education after working at my children's school as a crossing guard, playground aide and instructional assistant in 1994. I have had wonderful mentors in my path as I inquired and learned. Johnson Elementary in Mesa is where my story began.
I was an instructional assistant at Johnson Elementary in the 1990's working with students from the Severely Mentally Disabled classroom, Moderately Mentally Disabled classroom, and the Basic Skills Department. During this time, I was an East Valley Teacher Core participant and scholarship recipient. I enjoyed working at my children's school being the PTO President and running the RESPECT program.
When I finished my undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, I was extremely fortunate to open Zaharis Elementary School as the Specific Learning Disabilities Teacher. I have taught K-6th grades here at Zaharis in the resource room. I have treasured every minute of it! While here at Zaharis, I continued my education and received my Masters in Elementary Education.
I also teach at Arizona State University in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College as a Faculty Associate. I have taught many special education courses, and currently teach literature and writing courses to education majors.
I have been hired by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company to author a textbook. The textbook is geared for university courses with relation to children's literature. The textbook is due to be completed by May of 2013.
I honor and treasure my experiences at Zaharis Elementary and as a SOARING EAGLE! I look forward to growing and learning along side my students and peers.
Listed below are my educational degrees:
Northern Arizona University
Master of Education, Elementary Education
Structured English Immersion Endorsement
Arizona State University
Bachelor of Arts in Education, Special Education K-12
Specific Learning Disabilities Certification
Mental Retardation Certification
Early Childhood Endorsement
Mesa Community College
Associate in General Studies
Associate in Arts Degree