2019 A+ Educator: Jennifer Corcoran
First Grade Teacher, Coopertown Elementary School
Her Nominator Says:
“From the get-go, Mrs. Corcoran has been so supportive of [our son] and his creative mind. She has always been great about keeping me in the loop about the happenings at school—even if it meant calling or emailing after school hours. Even though she would have to communicate the many disruptions that [our son] causes, she always emphasizes the positives about him. As a parent of a child with ADHD, this is so valuable. It is hard to feel like you are constantly apologizing for your child’s poor behavior. Her growth mindset has allowed him to grow and learn. Maybe it’s her special education background, or just who she is. But she has been a godsend to our family. She has been able to work with [our son] and help him be motivated, so he is able to learn and stay on task and at grade-level. Mrs. Corcoran has helped support us, too. I honestly can’t say enough about her. She is absolutely amazing!” – Main Line Parent Community Member
Get To Know Jennifer
What made you want to be a teacher/educator? When did you decide that was your path?
I am fortunate enough to have a great teacher role model in my mom, Mary DePetris, who teaches second grade at St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne. I always looked up to the way she makes learning fun and connects with children and families so genuinely. So basically I think it’s in my blood!
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is that when children are motivated and feel safe and comfortable, they can learn anything! My job as the teacher is to encourage them and create situations in which students can explore and connect the dots on their own! Watching this happen is truly magical!
How do you make your classroom/teaching environment feel welcoming and dynamic?
My classroom is very student-centered. I create an environment in which the relationships come first. I play with them, we tell jokes, share stories, and I give time for creativity and exploration. Every morning, I greet them at the door, and we start our day together in a morning meeting filled with greeting, sharing, and fun!
What would you love for the parents of your kids to know?
I want them to know that we are teammates working towards a big goal together. Also, that from 8:30-3:45, their child is cared for like my own.
How do you encourage reluctant learners?
WIT- Whatever it takes! Here are some examples: playing their favorite music while working, taking pictures of their work they are proud of and sending to parents, using special supplies, giving choices, and writing them motivational notes. Another great way is to find out what they are interested in and integrating it into lessons! For example, if a student is really interested in Pokemon, then make math word problems using health points (also note: learn the correct Pokemon lingo or you’ll lose your cred!)
How do you resolve problems in the classroom, if a student is disruptive, for example, or if two students aren’t getting along?
For a disruptive student, I prefer at first to ignore, give a general reminder of expectations, or give a silent visual cue then address misbehavior after the lesson or directions are over personally with the student if needed. A physical change of seat is usually an effective reset too. If two students are not getting along, 90% of the time in first grade it is some sort of miscommunication so we meet and talk it out with some great “I statements” and eye contact.
How can you tell when your material is connecting with your students? How do you measure progress?
Has teaching changed since you started?
My teaching career has not been a straight road to where I am now. I have taught in rural, urban, and suburban areas, as well as years in special education and regular education classrooms. I also started teaching in Catholic school. So for me, my own teaching has changed so much throughout the years, it is hard for me to tangibly discuss the changes in teaching overall.
How do you prepare for the first day of school/class?
To prepare for the first day of school, I like to make some sort of contact with families. Some years I will call families to introduce myself and answer any questions. The past couple years I have sent a letter to families to introduce myself and get the children excited for school to start. I like setting a positive tone, and starting communication with families from even before day one.
What has been the most rewarding thing about teaching?
Hands down, the fact that every day I go to work and have the ability to make a difference in the life of a child is so rewarding. Sometimes I can’t even believe I am lucky enough to have this as my job!
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