The Rotary Club of Beloit has named Erika Raess its Teacher of the Month for February.
Raess has been an educator for the School District of Beloit for 18 years, teaching art at Hackett Elementary School. She has also taught at Converse, Royce, Todd and Cunningham Elementary Schools.
Raess holds a Bachelor's in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University.
Among her community activities, Raess and her students participated in making clay tiles and garden stones for Riverside Park and, several years ago, created turtle statues that were placed around the city.
One of the reasons Raess chose teaching as a profession was due to an 8th grade teacher who cared for her as an individual and allowed her wings to spread and fly as she was going through a rough time in her life. She knew, from that point on, she wanted to be a teacher and also inspire children to fly academically and socially in their lives.
Raess sees the goal of education as one to teach and inspire, but also to realize that students have events that happen in their lives, so empathy should also play a big role.
Setting the foundation for lifelong learning begins in the early years of education, Raess belives, and it should start with a safe environment where procedures are laid out, modeled and followed through on a consistent basis. From there, the goal is for students to be able to learn and have fun in the process.
She understands that content should be engaging. She also allows students to talk, interact and share their thought processes on the content being learned. When this interaction occurs, she contends, students support one another in the learning environment and her job is simply to faciliate.
Accountability and responsibility are other aspects Raess believes in deeply. She feels that establishing a foundation of responsibility in a student's early years will carry throughout their entire life. As an art teacher, Raess has the advantage of teaching students for many years and can effectively strengthen their responsibility skills from year to year through her expectations of excellence and high expectations.