Sep 29, 2011 4:35 PM by Andy Koen

Teacher stays sharp by connecting with peers

Early in the school year, third grade teacher Jene Herrera noticed something about her students at Highland Park Elementary, a Pueblo City School.

"They can read very well, but they can't always tell me about what they've read," Herrera said.

So this morning, her reading lesson involves a little bit of art and a little bit of conversation. As a class, the students have been reading City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo. On the white board, Herrera has broken apart the story in three section, each filled with drawings.

"We've been putting these pictures, just sketches, down on paper to kind of use that as a cue for them to help the remember the story," she explains.

Once the students have sketched the memorable parts of the story themselves, they get up from their desk and find a partner to re-tell a brief version of the book using their sketches as a guide.

"It helps them to do better on their tests when I test them on the story and overall their understanding of the story," Herrera says.

A side benefit from the exercise is that her students also become better communicators. The lesson demonstrates the commitment Jene makes to ensuring that all of her students learn. Although, she's much too humble to take credit.

"Most of my ideas come from other teachers," Jene said. "Here in town, there are some of the best teachers that I've seen and their scores always beat mine and I'm always saying, what are you doing that I'm not doing, what can I do differently?"

This is Jene's 24th year in the classroom, yet she regularly calls up former teachers she's worked with to ask for advice and instruction. As she sharpens her skills, Jene is also bonding with her students which she considers the most rewarding part of her work.

"Seeing their pictures, hearing that they're doing well and seem to be very happy, that's good for me. I like to be a small part of that."

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