Thank You, Mrs. Woracek

I’ve wanted to work in education for as long as I can remember. My mom tells a story of me “teaching” our family cat before I would leave for preschool. This typically involved storytime (me reading to the cat) and a snack (mostly for me) and was lovingly called “Kitty-garden.” As far back as anyone in my family can remember, I was born to be a teacher.

Jump forward a few years (“few” meaning about twenty), and I was lucky enough to secure a summer job at Fontenelle Forest as a summer camp counselor. In this role, I taught a different summer camp each week with a fellow counselor – one week could be a group of third graders hiking through the forest all day, and the next week could be half-day preschool nature exploration. My supervisor in this role, Deborah Woracek, inspired our team, and myself especially, to love science education. We were taught how to ask important questions, and lead the children to ask their own. We had access to unbelievable resources (quite literally an entire forest) to engage and explore with the campers in an education experience of a lifetime. Most importantly, in my opinion, she taught me how to be okay not having all the answers. My favorite line to respond to a question I didn’t have the answer to is: “I don’t know – how can we all find out together?” Deborah taught me how to be vulnerable and inquisitive – and for that I am extremely grateful.

Because of this camp, and especially Deborah, I brought my love of inquiry to the classroom as a first grade teacher. All questions were valid, and all made the classroom community stronger. If I didn’t have the answer, which was more often than not the case, we discussed how we could find the answer and why it was important to “do the research.” I was a better science teacher because of Deborah Woracek. So during Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to say thank you to all informal science educators, but especially Deborah, who open the doors to a world (or forest) we can’t always find in a classroom.


Megan Doty is the e-Learning Engagement Specialist with the NSTA Learning Center.

Reach her via email at mdoty@nsta.org or via Twitter @Megan_NSTA

 

 


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3 Responses to Thank You, Mrs. Woracek

  1. Andy says:

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  2. Lindsey Simkins says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post for so many reasons. I too had the same childhood that I was always a teacher at home and even in my classroom with my classmates. I would spend every night “teaching” my parents before bed by reading the books. It is so crazy how teaching is just a natural thing that many of us teachers are born with. I love that you had the chance to have that camp leader and working with different students all the time because honestly from my time as a pre-service teacher I have noticed that every day, every week, and every year is a different story in the classroom. Also, I had a teacher this semester of college in fact that opened my eyes to teaching, especially science. Dr. Bechtel at Wartburg College is a professor every pre-service teacher needs to have before they graduate. He has changed my perspective so much about science but in teaching also. Dr. Bechtel is one that completely pours his heart into his students and challenges me beyond belief to be the best teacher that I can be. He is the educator that gives his students the responsibility for their learning and supports the 110%. My time in his classroom has made me feel very strongly that science can be brought into the elementary classroom through our more focused content areas of math, reading, and writing. With that also he pushes us so hard to make sure that we are making our lessons something that is inquiry-driven for our students to benefit the most in their learning.

    Lindsey Simkins
    Wartburg College
    Class of 2020
    Elementary Education
    Reading Endorsement

  3. Mattie Barr says:

    Megan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am in my third year at Wartburg College, getting my bachelors in Elementary Education with an endorsement in reading. My hope is to teach kindergarten within the next couple of years. As I read your story, I truly related to you in terms of wanting to teach my whole life. Instead of reading to my cat, I would order my sisters to play school with me, where I was the teacher and they were the students. Every day, I would plan for what I would want to teach them next. They weren’t as excited about playing school as I was though.

    One of my favorite points you made in this article was when you talked about your experience at a summer camp about inquiry. Having our students ask questions is a great tool for learning. I think of the QFT strategy, where students are challenged to ask as many questions as they can, with the mindset of having no incorrect ideas, no judgement, and no stopping is so purposeful. Allowing this causes our students to construct compelling questions, support them, draw conclusions, and to take action. All of these are inquiry standards and students get to discover their own ideas and learning. They are scientists.

    This post was so encouraging to me in the sense that we don’t have all the answers as teachers and that’s perfectly okay. We can learn and discover alongside our students. Create experiences with your students so that they remember concepts.

    Thank you for reaching me in a time where I have been checking items off my list, instead of focusing on the true purpose. Thank you for telling your story and inspiring other teachers and pre-service teachers to be an ordinary teacher who lets his/her students make them an extraordinary teacher.

    With much appreciation,

    Mattie

    Mattie Barr ‘21
    Wartburg College
    Elementary Education
    Reading Endorsement
    Education Office Assistant
    Service Trip Student Director
    Wartburg NSTA Social Media Coordinator
    100 Wartburg Blvd | Waverly, IA 50677 |

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