Cedar Mountain teachers honored

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  • Mary Ollert achieves learning with a student.

  • PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKIFrom left, Kelly Talerico and Mary Ollert use the Fundations curriculum.

  • Kelly Talerico works with a student.

VERNON — Cedar Mountain Primary School First Grade teachers Kelly Talerico and Mary Ollert know how to teach with results, and were awarded with the 2018 SCARC Teacher of the Year.

Principal Rosemary Gebhardt introduced them, “ Here are the teacher celebrities!”

Under their tutelage of all subjects, first-graders already spell multi-syllabic words with precision – and enjoy it.

On a typical day, students spell and write words like: “athletes,” “frantic,” and “spandex.”

Talerico and Ollert make it fun, keeping the students engaged. Talerico said, “Classity-class. Let's see who's going to walk into second grade as calm as a?”

“Cucumber,” the students responded.

She informed the students, Ollert and she would give them words back from when the leaves were falling off the trees, and the snow was falling outside.

Ollert played off of her, “Way back then? You remember way back then? That was 179 days ago.”

Talerico instructed, “Elbows up,” and the students began building words with little yellow and green tiles on their desk boards, during their ICR (In Class Resource). Their teachers adroitly use the curriculum, “Fundations” - continually working with the entire room of students.

Talerico said, “The snow is melting now.”

Ollert added, “When we had our chrysalises.”

Talerico banged a book and said, “Oh, what's that sound? Elbows up. Bang. B – 'ang.' Yellow, green.”

The students peacefully “build” many words with their tiles. Their teachers then tell them to “spell away,” and they spell aloud what they have written.

Talerico said, “Put your finger on your nose if you got this. Clap twice if you got that. Can you come up with a trickier word, Mrs. Ollert? I went to the trickiest, trickiest book. Nobody's on summer vacation, yet.”

Ollert then led the students through a practice dictation of a sentence on dry erase boards.

As a result of their mastery in the classroom, the two teachers won a $1,000 SCARC Award, and the Vernon Township School Board awarded them $200. They plan to use the awards to enhance the classroom for student needs, including sensory integration materials, and possibly flexible seating.

Talerico explained, they use the wonderful phonics program “Fundations,” which the district purchased for them. She added, the students respond very well to it and love the tile and dry erase boards. On top of that, she said, they see improvement on student assessments as students apply the different strategies.

Ollert said the program is something which continues from year to year, starting in Kindergarten through third grade, accustoming students to the same materials, leading to their continued success.

The multi-sensory component, Talerico added, the program posters, and musical cues of spelling rules also help students with reading.

“We are very blessed to be given the opportunity to work together," Talerico said. "The group is just wonderful.” In addition, Ollert and she have a very nice working relationship, Talerico continued, as they want to create that positive, successful school experience for each and every student – from ability based to behavioral needs.

“Everyone has their strengths," said. "It's just finding it and bringing it out in each one of them. Accepting of all, I think, is our biggest thing. Accepting any child in the classroom.”

She also mentioned it was their first year team teaching together, although they both have taught many years.

In their ICR, Talerico said, they have typical first-grade learners in the room, along with learning disabilities, “but you wouldn't know walking in.”

Talerico is the first-grade general education teacher and Ollert is the In-Class Resource special education teacher in their classroom.

They both were truly grateful for the SCARC award. Talerico said, “They almost fell over.” [at the amount]

Ollert agreed, “It was very generous. Extremely generous.”

Talerico concluded, “We really enjoy what we're doing.”

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