Teacher of year helps kids grow

Melissa Romero of Lockwood Elementary School in Clovis gives her kindergarten class a lesson in patterns while KayDee Wallace watches. Romero was named Clovis’ Teacher of the Year. CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Melissa Romero, a kindergarten teacher at Lockwood Elementary School, was recently named the 2006 Clovis Teacher of the Year. She was also a finalist for the New Mexico Teacher of the Year award. She has been teaching for 14 years. The Clovis News Journal asked her to give us insight into her profession.

Q: Tell us about some of the accomplishments that led to you being named Clovis Teacher of the Year?
A: I recently received my national board certification in early and middle childhood literacy. I received my Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages endorsement that has equipped me with the resources and strategies to better help English language learners. I graduated from the Family Leadership Institute.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
A: When I was a little girl, I used to play “school” with my little brother and sister, and I always had to be the teacher. I guess it’s in my blood.

Q: Define a good teacher.
A: A good teacher is one who sets the standards for learning high, keeps up to date with current research-based strategies through professional development, and shows compassion and empathy toward her students while making learning fun and meaningful.

Q: Why do you work at the kindergarten level?
A: When I was first hired, it was for a kindergarten position. I learned a lot about how children learn those first couple of years of teaching. I have been fortunate to work with other talented primary teachers in our district through professional development opportunities and at the building level. I learned even more from these teachers about best practices for my 5- and 6-year-old students. I have had so much fun helping children develop their full potential. Children at the kindergarten level get so excited to show how much they know. And they know a lot more than we give them credit for.

Q: Tell us about activities you do in your classroom.
A: The main focus of my classroom is to build literacy skills among students. Throughout the day, my students are immersed in activities such as reading a poem of the week, writing stories as a class and, individually, learning letters and phonemes, along with the relationship among numbers. This is all done in different ways to keep children moving to involve the whole body.

Q: What is the most challenging part of teaching?
A: Playing different roles in the classroom. Teachers’ roles are not only to provide instruction, but they also act as nurses, counselors, peacemakers, analysts, and the list goes on. It becomes difficult to offer everything that will meet the needs of every child.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
A: To see that the learning environment that I have provided for my students has paid off, and I can see the growth and gains in my students.

Q: What is the most important thing a teacher can do for a student?
A: A teacher can recognize the individuality and worth in each child. We as teachers need to understand that each child learns at his or her own pace and they are all at different academic levels of development.

Q: What is the most important thing a parent can do for his or her child?
A: A parent can start building a strong foundation in their child when they are babies. Talking and reading to your child helps build oral language and vocabulary that is vital in creating this foundation. Ask your child questions to help get their critical thinking skills progressing.

Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I am married to Tony Romero. We have five children. Amanda is 14. Timothy is 12. Seth is 5. Jared is 4. Brienne is 11 months old. My parents are Grable and Berna Encinias.