Students in Jennifer Zeigler's 1st Grade classroom at Normal Park Lower find a lot of independence. They're free to move around, free to explore their creativity, and free to learn at their own pace. "So I meet them at their level and I really feel like that helps them feel some success and then they want to achieve more."
A team of parents helped transform Zeigler's classroom into an educational environment, where students can indulge in their interests. "I like to draw and centers," says Alexandra Saldana. "We're playing games, we're dancing, we're singing. We just do what they enjoy to do," says Zeigler.
She wants her class to enjoy writing too, so she keeps a board of worn out words, encouraging students to explore new phrases. "They get so used to predictable sentences, things they're comfortable with, so we try to help them realize 'oh, I can write so much more than what I'm used to writing."
Zeigler isn't afraid to admit to her students that she doesn't have all the answers. Instead, she shows her class she's armed with the tools to find them.
Zeigler wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl, but she wasn't always confident about being the head of the class. "I got nervous about it as I got older and realized what a big responsibility it is and how all these children are relying on you for something so important."
Peers say its that philosophy that makes her a terrific teacher. Normal Park Site Principal Haley Brown says "I have seen her spend hours pouring over assessments that she does on each individual student so that she knows how best to meet their needs."
Zeigler doesn't keep her ideas to herself either. She shares them with her colleagues so every student coming into first grade at Normal Park can get the same experience.