Challenges are met with enthusiasm and excitement in Lottie Bunzel's first grade classroom at the Springfield Literacy Center. Before every test and assessment, Lottie asks her students, "Are you ready to accept the challenge?" A resounding "YES!" comes from her students as they prepare to take their exam. Lottie instructs her students to never fear a challenge. She helps them understand that challenges build their confidence and motivates them to do their best.
Lottie recognizes the importance of establishing a love for learning in first grade. It is an important year, as students are developing rigor and stamina for a full day of school and learning to follow routines and schedules. The expectations for first grade students are very high in reading, writing, math, listening and speaking. Lottie says, "If a six year old likes coming to school, then the learning comes much easier. The growth mindset of learning to their full potential, increases in them every day."
Lottie says, "We are fortunate in our Literacy Center to have so many great resources. We have a 'Go Blue' hour of reading that groups our students into reading on their level. Three Reading Specialists in the building work with my intensive students, other teachers on my team work with strategic groups and there are benchmark groups. I have high expectations for them to increase their grit in reading, vocabulary, comprehension and writing."
Having taught kindergarten for ten years, Lottie knows exactly where her first grade students are coming from. She enjoys the full day and adjusts her lessons as her students grow. Lottie says, "You really never know what a first grader is thinking until they share their thoughts with you. Sometimes our conversations take another direction because of those thoughts and ideas."
The growth mindset in Lottie's classroom, is that the work should be hard. If the students think the work is too easy, then the work moves up to another level. Lottie loves to see developing readers emerge and watch as once shy kindergarteners strive towards independence.
Lottie showed strength, grit and courage when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2007. Her treatments began in 2009 and with thanks to the phenomenal support of her family, friends, fellow teachers, administration and Springfield families, she was able to return to teaching in the fall of 2010. She not only returned but began the next chapter in her career at the brand new building that was dedicated to literacy.
The teamwork and collaboration at the SLC is what sets the bar for success. The team of teachers at the main level coordinate activities and plan for students on a weekly basis. Students are made to feel comfortable and confident when they contribute to class discussion and know that it is important for their voices to be heard.
Lottie enjoyed developing a new growth mind-set for first graders. She feels that teaching is a challenging yet rewarding career, and is pleased every day to bring new learning to her group. The expectations for the end of a school year can be daunting for her 6 year olds – and she is always proud of how her students meet those expectations.
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