Everyone knows keeping kids engaged is the key to learning. These days, that often involves incorporating technology into the classroom. However, for Lakewood High science teacher Lisa Krumroy, good old-fashioned creativity does the trick for her students. Her self-described “weird projects” keep her kids motivated and interested, which is one of the reasons Lisa has been named one of our December Staff Spotlight honorees.
Lisa, who joined the District in 2010 after a career in cancer genetics research, said teaching was always a goal of hers. She taught a year at Garfield Middle School before moving to the high school, which is a level she likes teaching because of her students’ sense of humor and openness to new ideas.
She is known for what she calls her “awkward activities” such as having her students eat chocolate-covered crickets to show real-world examples of sustainable proteins. “I like to get my students out of their comfort level,” Lisa said, because she thinks it helps them remember the subject matter better.
“She is amazingly creative and makes science come alive in her classroom,” said Lisa’s nominator, fellow science teacher Ann Pesta, who also praised Lisa for the time she has spent mentoring her as a new biology teacher this year. “She shares her expertise, helps me plan and answers many questions every day. My transition to the high school would have been much more difficult if she didn't reach out to help me,” Ann said.
Lisa likes to fly under the radar while doing her job, but the work she has been doing with her students and colleagues has not gone unnoticed.
When Emerson teacher Mary McCool-Berry submitted her Staff Spotlight nomination for Tara Shirley, she did so with a 3-page account of all that Tara does for Emerson as the school’s Family Resource Coordinator. It included more than 20 bullet points of responsibilities. But those job duties only reflect a portion of what Tara does. Much of her work is in the intangible aspects of relationship-building. As Mary says, “connecting with children and families is the essence of Mrs. Shirley’s work at Emerson.”
Helping children and families has always been the focus of Tara’s career. Even before she earned a master’s degree in social work, she felt compassion for those in need and the urge to make a difference. She has been doing just that in the seven years she has been at Emerson.
Tara sees her job as one of making sure each student is ready to learn and feels welcome and safe at school. She accomplishes this in many ways, whether it’s collecting winter gear for families, assisting immigrant families in their assimilation needs, providing a safe spot for students to check in or linking families with outside support services.
She also holds weekly lunch sessions with eight different groups of students where she works on helping the students connect with each other and build self-esteem. She sees her work with these and other students who may need some level of counseling as a piece of the education puzzle. “You can provide the best education, but unless a child has a socio-emotional component, you are not going to succeed,” she says.
Because most students attend Emerson for six years, Tara is able to build meaningful relationships with students and families during the critical elementary years.
“Mrs. Shirley is the touchstone for Emerson families,” Mary McCool-Berry wrote. “Her passion and love for people inspire, support, and build the Emerson family.”