Elementary education, learning disabled education
Teacher, Gifford Elementary School, Racine, Wis.
Wisconsin PTA’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2011
When elementary school teacher Becky Steinbach was named the Wisconsin PTA’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in March 2011, there was one story that her colleagues wanted her to mention in her acceptance speech. Like all good teachers, she sees the impact she has on her students every day — but she had also received what she called the “ultimate recognition.”
“A 10-year-old, Max, named his dog after me,” Mrs. Steinbach said, laughing. “His mom wrote a column for a newspaper and did a story on it. He found a stray while he was at camp, and when he brought it home, he named her Becky.”
For Mrs. Steinbach, a 1985 graduate of Carthage, this was one honor in many. A second-grade teacher at Gifford Elementary School in Racine, Wis., she was nominated for the school’s PTA Teacher of the Year award in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and won the title in 2010-11. She went on to receive the state title.
“It’s the culminating recognition for the daily work that you do,” Mrs. Steinbach said about the award. “I love working with the kids, but to have the parents and my peers recognize me is an incredible feeling.”
Mrs. Steinbach graduated from Carthage with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and learning disabled education. Before teaching at Gifford, she taught a fifth-grade learning disabled class at Dr. Jones Elementary School, and a fifth-grade class at Wind Point Elementary School. All three schools are part of the Racine Unified School District.
She is a third-generation teacher, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother.
“If you live in a household where that is your lifestyle, it isn’t about the money,” Mrs. Steinbach said. “It’s about being able to raise a family. You have extra summertime. You get to go home at 4:30. You learn that you’re a people person; you want to work with people.”
Her passion for working with children and understanding how they learn best has been instrumental in her success as a teacher, both in learning-disabled classrooms and in her other classes.
“I like being able to create hands-on ways to learn versus pencil and paper,” Mrs. Steinbach said. She particularly enjoys teaching math and science using experiments and tactical learning.
‘Best four years’
Mrs. Steinbach called her time at Carthage “four of the best years of my life.” She learned how to teach students of all learning styles, and was able to double-major and still graduate in four years, she said.
She also gained experience in working as a team and mediating student conflict as a resident assistant. She found a mentor in Carthage’s then-pastor Steve Samuelson. She went on to become a member of his church in Racine.
Mrs. Steinbach said she appreciated the connection that students have with the professors at Carthage, particularly those in the Education Department.
“The professors didn’t just teach from the book,” she said. “They all had experience being teachers, so the lectures were often based on their experiences. It made the information more valuable. Especially in the Education Department, they were there for you. You could go into their office, you could ask questions. They were very involved in the student teaching placements. I feel Carthage has a really good connectedness with the student teachers in the community.”
Why she loves teaching
For Mrs. Steinbach, seeing her students transform is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher.
“I enjoy their innocence, their desire to learn,” she said. “They’re motivated. For the most part, I have never had students who weren’t motivated. I love watching their progress from fall to spring. They have a genuine desire to learn. I’ve been very fortunate that way.
“Teaching is about being with children,” she concluded. “There is no reward greater than developing young minds.”
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“The professors didn’t just teach from the book. They all had experience being teachers, so the lectures were often based on their experiences. It made the information more valuable.”