‘Students need to know they matter and can overcome difficulties,’ teachers say

Greta Eber and Tyler Jackson find special ways to award and communicate with students.

Two local Springfield teachers are making a difference in their district and in their classrooms.

The teachers are working to make learning fun and find special ways to keep them engaged, whether it be by awarding positive behavior with books or having family-style meetings for open communication.

The Springfield News-Sun is highlighting a small portion of the teachers in our community this week. Here are two more teachers who are making a difference in the classroom for their students.

Greta Eber

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Greta Eber, librarian at Donnelsville Elementary School in the Tecumseh School District, had the vision to bring a book vending machine to the library.

The Bookwarm Vending Machine, which arrived earlier this month, can hold roughly 250 books. When a student displays positive behavior, such as kindness, honesty, determination, gratitude, courage, integrity and respect, they are given a token to put in the vending machine and select a new book.

“So many of our students are in need of love and guidance. They need to know that they matter and that they can overcome difficulties,” Eber said. “Also, many of our students do not get to experience that joy from having a brand-new book. This is one way I can allow them a joyful experience that all kids should get to have.”

Eber said she heard about the Scholastic Book Vending Machine and thought it was interesting.

“It was right after we had our spring book fair and there was mention that many of our students can’t afford to buy books at the book fair. I wanted to find a way to provide a new book for all my students,” she said. “As I researched for more information, I found a company that makes these machines specifically for schools and already has a system to incorporate the machine with positive behavior incentives.”

The machine cost roughly $5,000, plus the cost to stock it with books. Eber originally looked at grants, but there were none that fit the time frame or purchasing amount, so she was given permission to do a Facebook campaign. Once a certain amount of donations were raised from that, she started a foot campaign and visited local businesses to see if any would be willing to fund the machine. After raising $2,600, the PTO donated end of the year funds to pay for the rest of the amount.

All proceeds from the spring book fair are used to purchase books from Scholastic to help keep the machine stocked.

“I know I’m making a difference... I’m a small person in their lives as a librarian, but I want each of my students to know at the end of the day that they are loved,” she said.

Tyler Jackson

Tyler Jackson not only teaches science and social studies to fifth graders at Lincoln Elementary in the Springfield School District, he also teaches students about self awareness, empathy and how everything is relative.

Jackson brings energy when delivering his lessons because he has learned that if he is having fun teaching a lesson, then the students are having fun learning.

“I build relationships with my students. In my classroom, we are family. I allow my students to have a voice,” Jackson said. “Sometimes, it’s necessary to talk about life. We reflect on our day and we focus on what we learned, on our progress that we are making, and how we can use what we have learned in the future.”

In the classroom, Jackson focuses on classroom community and social emotional learning, including self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and how it’s all connected to be successful in school, careers and life.

At the beginning and end of each class, Jackson has a family meeting where students and teachers sit in a circle facing each other to have open and direct communication. Each classroom in the building has a family meeting every day, and Jackson has been doing them for the past four years.

“Family meetings provide a safe, supportive space where everyone can talk about sensitive topics, walk through differences and build solidarity,” he said. “They have proven to be effective as far as getting the students prepared to learn, even more so having the entire school on board with the program.”

Jackson said he loves the difference family meetings have made for students, especially for the ESL community, since it gives them the opportunity to speak about their academics, lives, emotions and other topics.

“Over the years, I’ve notice that many of our ESL students are not comfortable speaking or participating, due to language barriers and the lack of confidence when it comes to academics,” he said. “I’m noticing more participation from my ESL students in circles and during academics. I credit the family meetings for giving my ESL students a voice that they might not have felt that they had before.”

Another way to help prevent behavior issues and continue to build on the relationships that have already built with students and families, Jackson and two other teachers, Mrs. Brumfield and Ms. Donaldson, “cycled up.” The three were fourth grade teachers last year, and decided to do this so they can continue to teach the same group of students this school year in fifth grade. They said this is helpful because they already know where the students are academically and it makes it easier to meet their needs.

About our series

This series highlighted how teachers are making a difference in the classroom. The series started on Sunday, and the Springfield News-Sun featured a total of nine teachers.

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