Tina Repetti-Renzullo - McKinley School
Growing up I had a wonderful closet fitted floor to ceiling with shelves of varying depths and widths. One set of shelves, originally intended for shoes, was perfectly sized for housing my personal library. Babysitting profits afforded frequent purchases of Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, and Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Every opportunity for gift-getting I requested books. One shelf after another soon filled with the objects of my passion: reading. Through books I found challenges to my perception of the world, companionship in my favorite characters, and the answers to myriad questions I had about life. When it came time for college and career planning, I took a guidance survey to see which fields of study best fit my interests and talents. Teaching came up as a good fit and so I decided to pursue training in education.
I majored in Child Development and as I studied the work of Piaget and Vygotsky I found myself intrigued by the learning and perception capacities of young minds. Working with preschool children as part of the fieldwork requirements for my courses, I was energized by the expressions of pure joy children conveyed upon moments of discovery. Observing children engaged in learning, immersed in developmentally appropriate environments, exampled the benefits of thoughtfully designed education. I was a young mother at this point and there was a melding of my desire to be a good parent with my determination to be a good teacher which fueled my passion.
Early on in my career I developed a habit which has endured and to which I attribute my success. I purposefully engaged in continuous reflection so that my teaching would improve. I sought out the expertise of my peers, took more classes, and signed up for professional development. Over the course of the intervening twenty-one years this habit has served me well regardless of the academic setting in which I am working. I am myself an eager, focused, and driven learner. When I wanted to find out more about the needs of gifted learners I enrolled in Gifted and Talented Education training and eventually became a district trainer for initial certification and recertification. I signed up for training in the SEED Science program, built my skill through teaching the units to my classes, and became a trainer of several modules. When I wanted to improve the achievement of our students on the STAR writing exam I worked with the District Literacy Coach to design and train teachers to calibrate their scoring of student writing using the CST and CAHSEE writing rubrics. When our district implemented Data Study Teams I participated in the trainings and then turned around and trained the staff at three schools on the use of data to inform instructional choices. When our district began using Step Up to Writing I attended initial trainings, worked with classroom teachers on using the strategies, and eventually took the Trainer of Trainers course. I am now a District Trainer for kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers. This desire to enhance my own capacities has helped me accomplish my goal of being a highly effective teacher.
I consider the breadth of my experience to be one of my greatest assets for two reasons. First, each individual placement has improved my understanding of how children learn. I have been a classroom teacher for kindergarten, second, third, fourth and sixth grades. I also taught computer science and ran the library for a K-8 school. I found that, regardless of background, students respond positively to a thoughtfully designed, developmentally appropriate learning environment. Second, I’ve acquired strategies to best meet a wide range of individual student needs. When my older son’s neurological disabilities required a drastic change in his learning environment, I home schooled my own children covering fourth through eighth grades for one son and preschool through third for the second son. This allowed me to work intensively with each of them and gave both boys the time, opportunity, and a voice in developing their own learning styles. I applied both of these assets to my work as Curriculum Resource Teacher and Literacy Coach at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, supporting classroom teachers in meeting the needs of their students.
This year I was nominated by my peers and honored to receive the Pasadena Rotary Teacher of Excellence Award. The award represented an acknowledgment by the community of the years of service I have provided to my home town and the commitment to quality I have maintained at every turn in my career.
When I decided to return to the kindergarten classroom two years ago, I wanted to continue my role as a professional developer in some capacity. I wanted both to be a skilled practitioner and a force for changing the academic outcomes of our at-risk students. My goal for each child is that they leave my classroom with a solid foundation in literacy. I want that to be the goal of every teacher in my district, so when I was asked to co-lead a Professional Learning Community for kindergarten teachers, I eagerly accepted. We met six times over the course of the year and at each session I shared my processes for planning, teaching, reflecting, and improving. With each meeting, more teachers were willing to look critically at their own practices, share strategies, and support the work of our group. It was an extremely edifying and personally impacting process. We plan to continue our work in the coming school year. My greatest contributions to education lie in the achievement of my students and in my commitment to enhancing the teaching practice.