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Around our Town...Outstanding Educators

12/01/2004 - The enthusiasm of Pineview Meadows Elementary fourth-grade team teachers, Michelle Smith and Carla Larsen is mirrored in their students:

Carla Larsen

"If you need help, she always helps. She encourages you when you're having a hard time." Cassidy Norcross' glowing praise of Carla Larsen is echoed by her classmate, Brandon Jordan, "she teaches in really cool ways," he agrees.

What's her secret to a classroom full of such enthusiastic, happy learners? " I bring learning to life and life to learning," Carla explains, "I connect the importance of school to everyday life."

Carla's passion for teaching stems in part from her own experiences in school growing up.

She dropped out of high school before going on to earn her Masters degree in Education. "The most challenging part of teaching is making sure I reach and teach all my students. I like challenges," she tells us.

But the challenges are nothing when you consider the rewards. "I really enjoy seeing success with my students. I also love reading their stories, poems and journals. I knew in my heart I belong beside many children. I knew it would be a job I would enjoy doing every day."

Michelle Smith

"I'm uncomfortable with 'Outstanding Educators' as a title for this column. Every one of the educators I know in Casper works very hard and is deeply committed and caring. Every one is outstanding," Michelle Smith shares.

If you ask any of her students, however, they'll tell you Michelle is pretty outstanding.

"She's nice and she teaches in a fun way," says Stephanie Brown.

"She gives us challenging work," offers Casey Armstrong.

Hali Wise adds, "She taught in science a lot about rocks and minerals. I learned from her experiments how to make crystals."

It was Michelle's love of children that motivated her to become a teacher. "I love seeing the lights come on, the 'ah-has', the children being so proud of their accomplishments."

Michelle and Carla agree that reaching all of the children placed in their hands is the most challenging part of being a teacher. Yet Michelle makes a great effort to understand the child who needs a different approach. She's a big believer in SFA – Success for All – a research-based reading program designed to eliminate illiteracy among students. The program implements multi-age reading groups based on level, not grade, so no one is left behind.

"The students see Michelle as a knowledgeable, caring teacher with high expectations," says Principal John McGlade. "She offers an upbeat and friendly atmosphere in which to learn and I'm pleased to have her on our staff.

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