For two years now, teachers Jeanette LaMarca and Lisa Leibel have co-taught a class of special and regular education second-graders at Elmsford’s Alice E. Grady Elementary School, one of a handful of team-taught classes in the elementary grades.
“Both are tremendously dedicated. The individualized attention provided to each student by Mrs. Lamarca and Mrs. Leibel goes a long way toward capitalizing on each student’s strengths while supporting areas of academic weakness,” said Elmsford schools Superintendent Joseph Ricca, in nominating the pair for Educators of the Week.
LaMarca is a special education teacher who has been at Elmsford for 11 years, spending four years before that working in New York City. She said she’s always worked with children, from babysitting to camp counseling, and followed her mother’s footsteps by becoming a teacher, a job she said she does well, especially with her co-teacher.
Her hard-won wisdom: “It’s important to be reflective. Even though I’ve been teaching for a long time, I’m constantly thinking about how can I make this lesson better. Also positive reinforcement, being positive with the children and understanding their backgrounds, where they come from … how we want the feeling of community to be in our class.”
Leibel has been a teacher 25 years and has been working in Elmsford 23 of them after working in Yonkers and Teaneck, N.J. Like her co-teacher, she has always worked with children including babysitting and camp counseling. It just made sense, she said, to go into education as a continuation of her work with youngsters, even though she’s the only one in her family to become a teacher. She said she couldn’t picture herself doing any other job.
Her hard-won wisdom: “My biggest change came when I became a parent. That was just an eye-opener in a different way. You look at the kids differently and know that they have (parents/guardians) at home. You are with somebody’s children. I want to treat these kids the way I want my kids to be treated by their teachers.”
She also said that positive reinforcement is important when working with young children, as well as patience and flexibility.
The pair recommended two books: “The Daily 5” by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk.