Becky Lynch’s second grade class at Our Lady of the Presentation School is divided into four small groups for reading lessons.
One group of students cop a squat on the floor with Lynch near the classroom’s entrance while practicing past, present and future tense of words; another group is partnered in twos.
The partners re-read previous assigned stories from colorful children’s books and answer together questions about the book.
A third group is typing spelling words as they share the three computers inside the classroom; the remaining students sit patiently at their desks and work on a worksheet focused on “commas in dialogue.”
Every so often Lynch has to remind a student to “stay focused” or encourage a pair of hyper boys to “pipe down” with a stern warning, but more times than not, the students stay on task and are fully engaged as they rotate stations every 10 minutes or so.
The small-group learning method is one Lynch embraces for reading instruction.
“I do it just for reading,” Lynch said of a method she is using for the first time this year after five years at Our Lady of the Presentation. She has been involved in a variety of career fields, including education, since 1989. “I just started doing it this year and it’s been working really well. I knew I had some special needs kids coming in and I just thought the best way to get their attention and their help was to break them into small groups. It just kind of flourished from there.”
The engagement of the children inside Lynch’s class is just one reason she was awarded the school’s Teacher of the Year award in February. With it came a $1,000 prize and a tradition to uphold at the school.
Students, their parents and other teachers at OLPS participated in the nomination process and a panel reviewed the blind nominations to select the winner.
Criteria for winners include: Does the teacher inspire students; understand and encourage talent and help build confidence; do they know subject matter and share it effectively; contribute to the school community outside the classroom; demonstrate leadership in professional development; and foster cooperative relationships with colleagues.
Other criteria included: integrating the Catholic traditions and faith formation and lead by example positive Catholic values.
Nominees must be full-time teachers at the school and a nominee may be eligible to win the award one time in every five-year period.
Last year’s winner was Maureen VanBecelaere.
“I was in shock,” Lynch said of the award which was a surprise announcement at a pep rally at the school Feb. 7. “I had a child not feeling well, so I was kind of focused on him so it was kind of surreal. It’s kind of a big deal. I hope that I can uphold the tradition. It’s kind of a neat torch to pass.”
Originally from West Des Moines, Iowa, Lynch and her husband of 21 years moved to the area six years ago. They have three sons: Jayson (17), Lucas (15), and Joey (14). The two older boys attend St. Pius X and Joey is in eighth grade at Presentation. When she’s not teaching, Lynch enjoys walking, reading, and football and is a self-described die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan that has been known to root for the Chiefs.
“She is always on the floor or in a corner, but she is never at her desk,” Jodi Briggs, principal at Presentation, joked about Lynch’s penchant to shun her work station before adding “she meets the kids individual learning needs. She loves what she does and it’s evident. She pours her heart and soul into what she does.”
Jeanne Flattery has a son in Lynch’s class, so she is partial, biased and a vested observer of Lynch’s teaching style. Also president of the OLP school advisory board, Flattery said Lynch is deserving of the yearly award.
“I’m biased; my son is in her class.” Flattery said. “I will say regardless of the students she has and the diversity she has in the class as far as learning capabilities, she changes the structure of individualized learning for each child – and she’s very good with communicating with parents. If we send her an email over the weekend, she’s responding to it, so yeah…”