Phone: (208) 585-5563
Degrees and Certifications:
"Every Child Learning Every Day!"
I once asked a large audience of educators who their best K-12 teacher was from their youth and what quality made him/her the best. The responses included statements such as “he showed concern for me”, “she was tough, but fair, “he knew how to get the best out of me”, “she showed her passion for teaching and loved her students”, and “I’m where I’m at because he believed in me.” The list could go on and most likely we would come across more personal qualities about the best teachers rather than attributes such as “best written tests”, “smartest person I ever knew” or “she knew how create the best classroom bulletin board.”
My favorite teacher was (and still is) Miss Penebianco. In 1972 I was a 10 year old 4th grader living in Cazenovia, New York who struggled making sense of most of my academic subjects. Despite being raised by two parents who were avid readers and had high academic expectations for me and my three siblings, learning was difficult for me. I liken my academic struggles to riding a bike. Some kids get on a bike at 3 years old and show great balance and agility, while others may not ride until age 7 or 8 after receiving additional help in developing that ability and gain greater confidence to ride a two-wheeler. Up until this point, I was an average student earning mostly Cs and a few Bs, and on this one particular day in 4th grade I had just flunked a practice-test about the internal organs of the human body. I left the classroom defeated, confused and embarrassed. Miss Penebianco saw my downward look as I headed to the door to walk home. She asked what was wrong and I broke down in tears saying “I just don’t get it.” After a minute I pulled myself together, my teacher said it would all be okay, and I headed home for the night.
The next day she pulled me aside and challenged me to learn the internal organs using a more tactile method by having me sketching a life size human and drawing the organs within the outline of the body. That simple technique refocused me, and when the post-test was administered and graded, Miss Penebianco proudly announced I had earned an A+. This was 1972 and the term “differentiated instruction” had not been uttered, yet this amazing first year teacher had the sense and dedication to invest a little more time in me and re-teach a lesson in a different way. I believe I would have been a “throw-away” kid if she had not provided that extra care and made education personal for me. It changed my life.
The Middleton School District Mission includes the phrase, “Every Child Learning Every Day.” This mission statement was one of the reasons I applied for the Middleton superintendent vacancy. I do believe all students can learn, and it is up to us to meet students where they are at, provide a safe and engaging learning environment, and do whatever it takes to help students attain the knowledge and skills needed to become productive citizens and lifelong learners. We must make education personal.
Have a great 2016-17 school year!