As soon as I walked through the doors of Yovana’s 3rd grade classroom at Ethel I Baker Elementary School, a student asked, “Who are you?” No “Hello,” no “Nice to meet you,” but a “Who are you?” Leave it to a small child to ask what they really want to know. I found it refreshing! In fact, that led others to ask the same question. After about a minute, the whole class was in chaos. I’d like to say I was the reason, but they were actually getting ready for “open house.” I watched the kids as they prepared their art so as to beautify the classroom and have something to share with their parents that evening.
Yovana, or Ms. Yoyo as the kids call her, is quite involved as an intern. She helps students with their work, such as, project work, Math, and English. Her classroom is an English Language Development classroom, which means most of her students speak another language (and English is their second language). Yovana speaks Spanish fluently, so it makes it easy for her to communicate with the students. Once the students figured out that I speak Spanish, they spoke to me only in Spanish. I felt right at home! I LOVE when kids speak in their native language. It was a beautiful thing to share that with them.
Back to Yovana…I would have to say that reading time was my favorite part of her tasks. Yovana reads aloud to the students every Tuesday and Thursday. She shared that she first has a discussion with the students about what they know is happening in the book, and what they think will happen next. After reading, she poses questions, and again the students are able to talk about the book. According to Yovana, the students have real discussions where they disagree and agree. She enjoys watching them as they argue their point.
Yovana showed me around her classroom, and invited me over to her “rotating book library” corner. That’s when she began to talk about her first project that is complete, but still lives on. The idea came to her, because she realized not all of the students had books at home. She decided to do a book drive at the Met, where she ended up collecting 300 books for her classroom. Yovana wanted to make sure her students had access to more than just a few books, so she turned her project into a “rotating book library.” To begin, each student checked out 4 books. After they read the 4 books, they were allowed to bring up to 4 books back, and check out up to 4 more. According to Yovana, “This rotation of books is to give students access to more books. In the end, each student may (permanently) keep up to 4 books.” Yovana is happy to report that almost all of the students continue to participate in the trading of books, and some have kept their books.
Yovana’s book project is not like any other book drive I’ve heard before. She made the project even more beneficial to the students, and provided the teacher with something she can continue next year. After sharing her book project, I assumed that was the end of the visit. It wasn’t. Yovana continued on with her 2nd project, a project that was not a requirement, but something she wanted to give to her students.
The 2nd project Yovana is currently working on falls in my interest area. Her project is a career show-and-tell by Met students. Yovana is inviting 4 Met students to talk to her students about their internships. She first surveyed her own students to find out what careers they are interested in, careers they are curious about, and had an open discussion with them. They are pretty young, so she heard a lot of the same responses. Nonetheless, she continued on and surveyed the Met students. Once she collected her information, she decided on 4 Met students to speak to her class. She plans to have the Met students visit before the end of the school year. I am looking forward to hearing about this experience.
At the end of the visit, I left knowing that the kids are very happy to have Ms. Yoyo in their lives. I watched them go to her (interrupt us) the entire time I was there. She was patient, helpful, and most of all loving. These kids trust her! Yovana shared that they go to her for everything, and she is so fortunate and grateful to have them as students.
Thank you, Ms. Yoyo, for being a fantastic teacher, a teacher one can only hope for their child.