Teacher Stories 5: Capturing those aha moments

Today, I am sharing Angela Gorecki Hamilton’s story. She teaches reading and math at Huth Road Elementary School in Grand Island, New York. This is the fifth story in my series about teachers, their work, the things that they share with their students, and the things that bring them joy. 

How did you decide to be a teacher or did
you always want to be a teacher?
From an early
age, I always enjoyed helping other kids with their homework. When I would
babysit, we would play school. In high school, I wound up tutoring some of my
friends. It was nice to have somebody coming to me for help and support, and
they knew that I would help them through it step by step, if they needed
without any judgment. If I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably have been a marine
biologist since I love the ocean and marine animals, especially dolphins. I
would have worked to teach children about ocean life and ways that we can help
the environment.
How long have you taught at Huth Road
Elementary School?
I have worked
here at Huth since 2009. I’ve mostly been teaching AIS reading and math.
What else have you taught?
I’ve also taught
fifth grade and second grade (twice). I really enjoy seeing the changes in
students from the beginning to the end of the year, especially with their
reading skills and with what they can now do. When they have that small
success and have that aha moment, it is good to be there and see their faces
light up when they get something, especially if they have been struggling with
it.
Where did you go to school?
I went to SUNY
Fredonia for my undergraduate degree and I have a concentration in earth
science. I love when I get to help the classes, especially fifth grade, when
they work on their geology units. I always used to find cool rocks and fossils
when I was little so I wanted to learn more about that. It fascinated me and
that is how I got into geology. I even have my own collection of gems and
minerals. When I was in Fredonia, we went to Canada and we went on a geological
dig. I found some really interesting samples of rocks, and I was able to bring
many of them back with me. My college roommate teased me about that and filling
up our room with rocks. I took many other science classes while in Fredonia so
I am interested in ecology, biology, chemistry, and physics as well. I stayed
at Fredonia and I got my master’s degree in literacy. I was able to work with
first graders and fifth graders while I was pursuing my master’s degree so I
was able to see the full spectrum of skills and abilities that different age
students possess.
How can parents support their kids as
readers?
The best thing
that I could tell parents to do to support their kids as readers is to read
with their child every night. It doesn’t matter if the child is reading to you
or if you are reading to them. Sometimes parents don’t have the time to sit
down and listen to their child read every day, so touching base with them and
asking questions about what they are currently reading is also so very helpful.
Having your child see you as an adult participate in reading is also really
important. Showing kids that you as a parent enjoy reading is so beneficial. I
would tell parents to have students focus on reading books at their level but to
still let them read books that are too easy or hard if they want a challenge or
want to remember a favorite book from when they were younger.
How can parents help reinforce math
skills?
It’s so crucial
that students are practicing their math facts every night, whether it be with
flash cards, iPad apps, or doing things like ExtraMath or IXL (a computer
program that students can go on to practice certain targeted skills). Students
have their own accounts and can log in to practice current skills and can even
practice skills from the prior year if they need some extra help. I like to
teach the students that I work with tips and tricks for adding, subtracting,
multiplying and dividing. I even use Mrs. Horrigan’s multiplication song! I’m
trying to get them to remember those facts, no matter what.
What is your typical day like?
My typical day
is a little different this year than it has been in years past. I push in to
Ms. Burczynski’s room every single morning to work with the class on a reading
skill or strategy. Sometimes, we do whole group lessons and, other times, we
break up into small guided reading groups. After that, I work with Mrs. Lipp’s
class, where I push in during a mini-lesson and pull students aside to
reinforce the skills and strategies from the mini lesson that we did as a whole
group.
After that, I am
back in my room for the rest of the day, where I see a mixture of reading
groups and math groups. This year, the reading groups that come to me are mostly
fifth graders as well as one third grade group. I teach fifth grade math, as
well.  For students that need a little extra
help in math, I pre-teach and reteach math concepts from the classroom. Many of
my math students seem very appreciative for the extra help and often find that
it’s a little easier for them, once they are getting the lesson a second time
around. I touch base with all of the classroom teachers that I work with in
order to make sure that I am using similar vocabulary and strategies to bridge
between their classroom and my room for both reading and math.
(Interviewer’s
note:
terminology: Pushing in: I stay in the classroom to
support the students and teacher with reinforcing specific skills from that
day’s lesson. Pull out: Take kids back
to my room in order to work with them on specific skills and strategies in a
small group setting.)
Are you in charge of any afterschool
groups?
I am! Currently
I am the advisor for third grade book club after school. We meet every Thursday
throughout the school year. Last week was the beginning of Session B. I do three
rounds of book club since there are usually a lot of students who want to
participate. Students read fiction and nonfiction books at home every week and
then come to book club on Thursdays to discuss the books and complete fun
activities. We even share a snack and drink while we are discussing our books!
When you aren’t at school, what do you
enjoy doing?
I love reading! I
try to read a lot of children’s books. I think that it is important so that I
can offer book recommendations to my students and also relate to things that
they are reading. I also like reading Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult books
for fun. I like taking my dog Cooper for walks with my husband Brian. We
recently moved to Grand Island so I’m enjoying getting completely settled in my
new house. I love taking pictures. You can usually find me with my camera phone
or camera, taking pictures of things outdoors. I take lots of pictures! I also love
cheering on the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, even though this year
hasn’t had a lot to always cheer about. 

2 thoughts on “Teacher Stories 5: Capturing those aha moments”

  1. Cerebrations.biz

    I used a book (ok, maybe two score of them) of kids poetry. It made them laugh, it made them think…
    They considered reading, therefore, a gateway to fun- and read books on their own.
    Of course, once they went to college, they claimed they were overwhelmed with required reading and gave it up. So, once they graduated, they were inundated with books as gifts. They got the message…

  2. I enjoyed reading your post on Angela's story. I'm not a teacher but I appreciate what all teachers do and their hard work. Angela seems to love being a teacher and reading and math are two important subjects for students to grasp. I like her after school focus on managing a book club with the students. Based on her response, the students enjoy being a part of the club. There needs to be a spotlight on more teachers. Thanks for sharing her story.

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