Spotlight: Lindsay Frevert (NJ '16)February 24, 2017
Lindsay Frevert's second-graders may spend only 183 days in her classroom, but they're stuck with her forever. Frevert cheers from the sidelines at their sporting events, attends their graduations and tracks their progress through college and beyond: "I know I am successful when my students grow up to be independent and successful citizens." Frevert received New Jersey's 2016-17 Milken Educator Award at Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville on October 20, 2016.
Milken Educator Awards: How did you end up in education?
Lindsay Frevert (NJ '16): I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was five. My godmother was a teacher, and I looked up to her. My mom babysat children for many years, so there were always times when she was helping us with our homework or giving us extra math or reading work. I loved what teachers did while I was growing up. They always made me feel special, and I knew that I wanted to do the same things for others. I constantly had moments in my life that reaffirmed my passion.
MEA: Why did you decide to teach elementary school?
Lindsay: Working as a babysitter, tutor and camp counselor showed me that I liked working with younger kids. I loved cooking and playing games with them. My favorite thing about working with this age is that they love to come to school. They come bouncing into my classroom with smiles on their faces. The students look up to you and want to work hard for you. At this age, you are helping the students find their own path. They are so enthralled by you and what you do—it's so much fun to help them figure out what life is all about.
It's challenging to send them on to the next grade. At the end of the year, I sit in my class and wonder—did I do ALL that I could for each student? Have I given them all the tools for the next grade, the tools they need to succeed in life? Does each one of them know that I am here for them and will support them for the rest of their lives? Does each one of them know that I believe in them? I am given such an important task, and it is very hard on the last day to wonder...did I do everything I possibly could have done?
MEA: What was your first job?
Lindsay: My very first job was as a babysitter. We would play games, watch movies, make necklaces. I loved playing with the kids and doing all that I could to make them laugh. I also tutored students when I was in high school. I was able to try different techniques that I thought I might use one day in my very own classroom. I could see how I connected with children and what I could do to help them. I was also a camp counselor, learning how to connect with several campers at once and to the parents as well. I wanted the campers to have fun, but I also made sure everyone was safe. I tried to get campers to get out of their comfort zone a little and try new activities. I wanted the kids to know this was the place to take risks.
One of my favorite jobs was at an ice cream store. I absolutely loved this job. With the regulars who came into the shop, my first goal was to learn their favorite orders. Then I would learn about the people in their family. When they came back I made a point of asking them about something we had spoken about during their last visit. I wanted people to feel special when they came in. People came back with smiles on their faces.
In my classroom, I do all that I can to make each student feel special. I learn all that I can about each of them so that I can use that information during lessons. I love seeing their smiles when I use information from their life to talk about math, reading, etc. That's the environment I want in my classroom.
MEA: Who was your most memorable elementary school teacher?
Lindsay: My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Marvin. She was always so positive; she smiled all the time and loved what she did. I always wanted to do my best for her and was excited to see her as I got older. She always remembered me and was so happy to hear what I was doing. She emailed me when I received my Milken Educator Award. It really showed me how invested she was in her students and our future.
MEA: Any educators in your family who influenced your decision to teach?
Lindsay: My godmother was a teacher. I thought everything she did was just perfect. My mother was not a teacher but should have been. She babysat for many years. During the summer we had "school time" where we would do worksheets or read books from the library. She would bring us all to the library for summer programs and really instilled in us the importance of education. My mom helped me realize teaching was something I would love.
MEA: What was your favorite subject?
Lindsay: I think I loved subjects more when I loved the teacher. For example, in middle school I had a math teacher with so much enthusiasm—you could tell he loved his job and wanted us to love math as much as he did. Because of him, I really loved math that year. In high school I had a Spanish teacher who also loved what she did. She had so much energy! She made me love learning Spanish.
As much as I loved school, it did not always come easily for me. I had to work for my grades and really had to study to do well. Things didn't stick in my brain right away; I had to review over and over again. I was a successful student because I had the ultimate support—my parents. I cannot tell you how many nights my parents stayed up late to help me study for a test, do my homework or complete a project. Both of my parents helped me be the best student I could be. Their belief in me allowed me to believe in myself.
MEA: Tell us about your first class.
Lindsay: I had an AMAZING first class. They were so energetic and loved to learn. But I still remember the very first day of school. Right before the bell, I realized that there was going to be no one else in there but me. I had a little freak-out and then composed myself and got through the first day.
I didn't realize how much paperwork there was in the beginning of the year, and I remember having the hardest time with this. I am so lucky, though, to have had the best grade level team and principal. They created an environment where I felt comfortable asking them questions and looking for help. They truly took me under their wing and supported me through that year.
My students worked so well with each other and wanted each other to succeed. I remember a student in my first class who was super quiet but had great ideas. I really wanted to get her out of her shell. By the end of the year she was participating, and her parents noticed how much she had grown and how much more confident she was. I had created an environment where she felt comfortable to be herself.
MEA: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Lindsay: My students think it is the greatest thing. According to them, I am now the richest person in the world. I always tell them that I was already the richest because I have them as students.
MEA: What do you hope your students remember about you and their time in your class?
Lindsay: When students leave my room, I hope they know that they are special and that I believe in them. Just recently, I received a letter from a former student who told me that he knows that I believe in him. That is exactly why I do what I do. People can succeed in life when they know others believe in them and when they believe in themselves. It is so important that my classroom is set up that way.
MEA: How do you involve parents and families in your class?
Lindsay: I have a Player of the Week. Students fill out a poster and read a book to the class. It is their time to shine and share information with others. I invite families to come in for this. I have had grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, babysitters, etc. The students love when they are Player of the Week. The parents tell the class what makes their child special, and the children share what makes each member of their family special. This is my favorite thing, because it is a very special time for the child and each family member. I also have a mystery reader. Parents come in to read a book to the class. The best part is that their children don't know they are coming.
My classroom is an open door. If parents want to come in and do something, they are welcome. This year a parent taught my students yoga. My mom even comes in and does an activity with my students every year. They love it when she comes in. This shows the students that I am just like them, and they see the positive relationship that I have with my mom.
My team has created a school picnic at the end of the year where, over lunch, students share some of their published work with their families. It's a great way for the students to showcase all that they have done in second grade, especially their writing, and it promotes literacy within our school community.
Every Wednesday I walk to school with students on our "Walking School Bus." This is a great time for me to touch base with parents and chat with students. We talk about TV shows or sports. It is so important that parents see that you are invested in their kids and love what you do.
MEA: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Lindsay: One of my favorite times of the day is when the students first come in. Every day is a new day. In the first five to 10 minutes I check in with students who may have struggled the day before. I ask the children what they did the previous night or over the weekend. Those moments help me create the bonds and relationships that will make a smooth school day. If a student is quiet or doesn't seem like himself or herself, this is a great time to find out what might be going on and address any issues before they impact the rest of the day. Most come in with smiling faces, ready for the day ahead. Their eagerness is the fuel I need to get going.
MEA: What's the biggest challenge you face in your classroom?
Lindsay: I want to reach every single student. I want to meet their needs at all times, and I want to provide them all of the attention that I possibly can. Within a classroom of students, this is not always possible. I am constantly reflecting on lessons, classroom setup, routines, everything, to see how I can meet their needs even more.
MEA: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?
Lindsay: If I could do anything, I would create a dome that could be used during the winter for indoor recess. When it's cold, students still need to run around.
MEA: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Lindsay: I would love to be a sportscaster (preferably for the New York Giants or New York Yankees). I love sports, and I love what sports do for my students. Students look up to athletes and they have such an important role in our society. As a sportscaster, I might even get on my dream reality show, Dancing with the Stars (even though I've never danced before).
MEA: What can our nation do better to encourage young, capable people to consider teaching as a career? How can we motivate new teachers to stay in the profession?
Lindsay: Our profession expects and demands a lot of teachers. One of the biggest things we should do is provide more support to new teachers. I envision roaming "coaches" going from district to district, mentoring and supporting new teachers. Having a mentor at your school is great, but new teachers often feel bad asking their mentors questions because they know the mentors are busy with their own classrooms. If we had educators whose only role was to be one of these roaming mentors, teachers might be willing to lean on them a little more.
We could do so much more to show appreciation for educators. Sometimes it is hard for others to see how much educators do because we "get the summers off." Teachers put in countless hours without compensation. We do it because we love what we do. If our nation put teachers on a higher pedestal, more capable young people would consider careers in education.
MEA: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when..."
Lindsay: ...when my students come back and visit me and tell me how successful they are in high school, or even in college! My life as a teacher doesn't end when the students leave my room. I always say they are stuck with me forever. I send them letters when they are starting high school. I go to their sports games. I go to their high school graduations. They may be with me for only 183 days, but I know I am successful when my students grow up to be independent and successful citizens.
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