Submitted by Denair Unified School District
Name: Coree Fitzgerald
School: Denair Academic Avenues
Subject taught: Kindergarten
Experience and education: I have taught at Denair schools for 11 years. I grew up in Denair and attended schools here from kindergarten through 12th grade. I went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. I earned my teaching credential through California State University, Stanislaus, and went on to complete my master’s in education there as well.
Why most inspires you about teaching? I love that as a kindergarten teacher I get to be the students’ first experience with education in the school setting. I love to see when my students are excited about what they are learning and eager to keep trying when things seem difficult. My main inspiration is that the kids will have a love of learning and the confidence they will need during their next years in school.
What are your biggest challenges as a teacher? My biggest challenges as a teacher are to bring a group of students who are often on vastly diverse paths and reach them all, taking into account that there are 20-30 individuals in a class each year and tailoring our program and curriculum to meet all of their needs.
What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I enjoy using technology in the classroom to show students a different way to see things other than just through stories or speaking with them. In some ways we can bring in real-life experiences for those students that are not familiar with a topic.
How has Common Core affected your classroom strategy? Our focus has shifted more toward discussions and bringing out deeper level thinking skills. In kindergarten, we use more open-ended questions to facilitate the need for answers that are more than one word or phrase. We give them an opportunity to use their peers to build upon their own ideas; in general, this makes for more interesting learning and the students seem to be more invested in each topic.
What do you want your students to remember? My hope is that my students leave my room feeling encouraged and valued knowing that they have something to contribute to this world. Each student in my class gets their own job in class and each part is important and needed. Every student has a unique set of talents and I try to point out at least one for my students. I hope that they leave my class knowing that they are good at something that is unique to them. I also love to see my former students and see how they are doing years down the road.
How can parents support what you do? Most parents are already doing most of the things that help to support their child’s learning. I believe it is extremely important to form close partnerships with parents through open and continuous communication. Another way to help is by showing that they value education. When the kids see that the most important people in their life believe that education is important, they strive to do well.
What will it take to improve academic success in DUSD? I believe that the academic success in Denair Schools are based on what you (teachers, students, parents, and community) believe is possible for these kids. I am very eager to continue building as a No Excuses University School and to bring the culture of success to Denair by building on what we already do well as a small school.
What’s next in your classroom? We are coming up on our spring unit where students will learn about the seasons, the life cycle, parts and systems of plants, and we will finish the year with our animal unit. I am excited to see the students’ interaction with this topic because my students have enjoyed the partnership of our high school students to bring our Green team back to campus. They have enjoyed planting and caring for their own classroom garden and seeing first hand how to help things grow.
What would surprise people about your job? I think that one thing that surprises most people about my job is that it is very physical and you are active for most if not all of your day. It is normal for a teacher to multitask several things at one time and to make sure that the class keeps the integrity and progress that is needed at the same time. Another thing that comes to mind is that the day is full of life lessons for these young students and we get to be the facilitators to teach them compromise and behavioral skills that hopefully transfer to make them productive adults. We have a lot of little conversations throughout the day that help them to understand how to live cooperatively with their peers.
What do you do for fun? I enjoy taking day trips to the ocean and the mountains with my family. Any extra time I get to spend with them fills me up and keeps me happy. I love to be outside and around my family so for me this is the best of both worlds.