Fifth grade teacher Nichole Ponzer, ’04, MSE ’08, knows the importance of finding something you love and giving it your all. Loving to teach is what Ponzer is passionate about. That is why she not only is an educator of a classroom of fifth graders; she is an educator to her colleagues too.
Currently a teacher at Read Elementary School in Oshkosh, her teaching philosophy of collaboration, authenticity, inquiry and differentiation gives her the ability to provide to her students.
“Students must be engaged in meaningful and authentic work that real readers, writers, historians, scientists, etc. do in their disciplines. Students should work to construct their own meaning through engagement…the goal of the teacher should be to create critical thinkers with the skills and habits to be lifelong learners,” said Ponzer.
Ponzer says she would not have been able to be the teacher she is today without the additional instruction she received from the Fox Valley Writing Project (FVWP). “Teachers teaching teachers” is the premise of the FVWP. Educators are given the opportunity to work in a professional learning community to help them become better teachers of writing and proficient writers themselves. It also gives teachers the ability to tap into the knowledge of professionals for all areas of education.
“My instruction in the classroom is more purposeful, authentic, motivating and rich (since attending FVWP). My students are immersed in reading and writing throughout the content areas over the course of each day and each one of them grows to love reading and writing,” said Ponzer. She is a teacher who goes above and beyond to provide her students with the materials and education they need to be successful in and out of the classroom.
Her experience in the FVWP became a springboard that helped her discover and build upon her strengths. “I believe in order to be a successful literacy educator you need to be an avid and prolific reader and writer yourself. FVWP challenged me, supported my growth and ultimately made me a better teacher and a better learner.”
When she is not teaching in her classroom Ponzer is teaching teachers. She has taken the skills she has learned from FVWP and applied those skills to coach other teachers on how to improve their literacy instruction through teaching various workshops at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She has presented at numerous national events including the National Math Recover Conference in 2011 and currently is a member of the FVWP Leadership Team.
Currently she is leading a school wide literacy program that collects, distributes and exchanges books for students who qualified for Title I reading support. Title I focuses on improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged for children in elementary and secondary education. Ponzer is an outstanding educator in her field because she gets her children excited about reading and learning, and continues to extend her knowledge to teachers too.
By Carlyn Brown