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Teacher Appreciation Month

DreamBox Celebrates Teacher Appreciation Month

Differentiating with Lincoln Logs to Build a Solid Foundation for Learning

Teacher Appreciation month on the DreamBox blog continues. This week we hear from Stefanie Vestal, a sixth-grade teacher in Herndon, Virginia. Her story about the kindergarten teacher who used Lincoln Logs to personalize instruction and routinely mobilized gaggles of five-year olds to successfully stage class plays instantly won our admiration. If there were a “We’re not worthy” award, Mrs. Cezelkowszi would certainly be in the running. Here’s Stefani’s story about the teacher who recognized that different students had different pathways to learning long before “differentiated instruction” had a name.

The teacher who influenced me most

I’ve had a lot of influential teachers, but the one that stands out most is my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Cezelkowszi. She understood and encouraged me at a very young age.

Mrs. Cezelkowszi knew that I wasn’t good at sitting still so she allowed me to multitask, and play with Lincoln Logs while listening to a story. She pushed me to improve my reading, made sure I was always challenged, and really personalized instruction. I think of her when I have students who struggle and need some extra help and attention, and when I have students who are ready to move on. I try to engage and challenge them in the same way she guided me.

Every year, Mrs. Cezelkowszi would put on a class play. I remember the year I was in kindergarten we performed The Three Billy Goats Gruff. As a former kindergarten teacher, I admire how she was able to get all 22 kids in the class involved in the play. I did Reader’s Theater with my own students, and getting just five of them to read their lines was hard enough! She also had a way of connecting lots of different academic concepts. When I built with Lincoln Logs she made sure I counted how many I used on each building and helped me add and subtract to compare structures. 

The reason I teach

I had so many positive experiences as a student. My high school and college history teachers were incredibly passionate and really brought the subject to life for me. Educators like these — who knew their stuff, taught for the fun and positive results, and connected with their students — are the reason I am a teacher today. I only hope I can be half as effective as those who have inspired me.

Today, I’m a sixth-grade teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools and have been working in education for more than ten years. I like to integrate project-based learning and social justice issues into all levels of instruction. I also run after-school and weekend activities for middle- and high-school-age students, and coach field hockey and basketball.

Stefanie Vestal, Sixth-Grade Teacher

What I love most about teaching

I love my students and truly miss them on the days I can’t be in the classroom. We have so much fun that teaching rarely feels like work. I enjoy sharing my passion for knowledge and hope to inspire my students fall in love with something—math, science, social justice, a certain genre of a book, etc. I can’t imagine doing anything else professionally.

Attention DreamBox educators: Only a few days left to share your story

You have until May 12th to submit your story for DreamBox Teacher Appreciation Month. If you want to participate in this challenge, either log in to DreamBox Nation through your DreamBox Insight Dashboard or email me your story by Friday, May 12. Not sure where to begin? Read the story we showcased last week for added inspiration. I will be in touch should we choose your story to feature!

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