While many people who have been at the same job for decades suffer burnout and apathy, Hayes first-grade teacher Nancy Hvizdos continues to feel energized and excited about her students and works to make school fun even in her 34th year with Lakewood City Schools.
“Every year is different, and it keeps me interested,” says Nancy, who has been at Hayes for the last 24 years. “I’m always trying to think outside the box…and bring hands-on fun to the class.” One example is the lemonade stand project her student engaged in to learn to experience first-hand the principles they were learning in their economics unit.
Nancy’s nominator, fellow first-grade teacher Ellen Perez, is impressed with Nancy’s ability to generate new ideas.
“Nancy is a creative and innovative teacher,” says Ellen. “She continues to intrigue her students, particularly through STEM lessons.”
Nancy freely and frequently shares the wisdom she has learned as a longtime teacher and is always open to input and ideas from others. She is a true team player, say her colleagues.
When you ask Roosevelt teacher Renee Smith what one of the things is that she most loves about teaching, she’ll tell you it’s the connections she makes with her students. After 30 years – all at Roosevelt – she finds a way to make each child feel special.
Renee’s love and care for her second graders doesn’t stop once they leave her classroom. Even a child that is in her class for a brief time reaps the benefit of Renee’s big heart. Earlier this school year, a student who had been a foster child was moving to join his adoptive family. As a going away gift, the class created a memory book and a Cleveland Browns fleece blanket for the boy to remember his time at Roosevelt. “He just got to me,” says Renee.
Building that connection between teacher and student is the foundation of Renee’s classroom. She loves to share stories of her dog, Bailey, and other aspects of her life with her students because as she says, “you have to let them know you’re real to build that trust.” Each morning, the class spends the first five minutes sharing about their lives.
Renee’s joy of teaching shines through and her love of Roosevelt and her colleagues, particularly fellow second grade teacher Maureen Manderfield – who has been by Renee’s side all 30 years – is strong. It is home for her, and she makes it feel the same for her students.