Kelly Lecceardone teaches sixth-grade English at the Lovett School. She’s been teaching for 26 years.
Q: What attracted you to teaching at first?
A: I always excelled in grammar, writing, and reading, and I truly enjoyed my English classes in middle school and high school. When I was a freshman in college, I had one of the best professors I had ever experienced at Colorado State University. He taught American Literature 101, and his passion for reading was contagious.
One day in class, his recitation of the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards brought tears to my eyes, and I fell in love with the subject. A teacher had never inspired me like that, and I was encouraged by him to go into the profession.
Q: Has the appeal changed?
A: The appeal for me has grown even stronger over the years because each day presents a new challenge in terms of how to inspire and motivate my students to be their very best. Teaching is an exciting, fulfilling profession where I get to see the results of my effort daily.
Q: What keeps you going year after year?
A: With advancements in technology, my teaching practices have changed significantly from when I first began in the early 1990s. I am now teaching at a school where each student has a laptop and where I am challenged to incorporate technology in a meaningful way when it is appropriate for the lesson. This adds another layer of excitement to the profession and also keeps me current on the best practices for my subject and my students.
Q: What do you think makes a great teacher?
A: I think a great teacher has to be a role model, mentor, and a source of inspiration. A great teacher “wins the crowd” and develops trust and respect in the classroom. With those key ingredients in place, a teacher can take students on an incredible learning journey, and the students will follow.
Q: What do you want to see in your students?
A: My goal for my students is that they try to take their learning outside of their comfort zones. I want them to push past memorization and look for application of skills in their reading and composition. I also do not want them to fear the subject, and I strive to provide them with songs and tricks to make the content less intimidating.
Q: How do you engage your students?
A: Students are more apt to be engaged in my class when they feel they know me as a person, so I start out every year by letting them learn about me first. I try to establish a connection with each one by seeing what we have in common.
I often use my dog Gino in stories, sentences, writing assignments, and find that they love hearing about him. They are learning parts of speech and sentence types without even knowing it because they are enjoying hearing about Gino’s antics. I use any hook I can to make learning more enjoyable and less stressful.
I also create grammar songs to help them memorize their notes so that they learn the information quicker. This means we can start applying the information quicker, too, in their writing.
Q: Do you have a project or special program you use year after year?
A: One of my favorite units to teach is a Humanities unit on WWII and the Holocaust, and it is based upon the novel “The Island on Bird Street,” written by Uri Orlev. With Lovett’s assistance, I have traveled extensively through Germany and Poland to bring the unit to life for my students.
Most recently I journeyed to Warsaw to find remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto wall and then took a day trip to Treblinka, the extermination camp, where the Warsaw Ghetto inhabitants were taken. I added this information to my Google presentation for students and made an iMovie for them, thus creating a virtual field trip of sorts. The unit speaks to man’s inhumanity to man, and the students are fascinated by it year after year.
Q: What do you hope your students take away from your class?
A: I became a teacher because I love to learn. My students know this, and above all, I want them to become lifelong learners.