Spotlight: Traci Druschke (IN '16)March 15, 2017
Students at Oak Hill Elementary take more pride in their work since watching third-grade teacher Traci Druschke (IN '16) win an Indiana Milken Educator Award on February 16, 2017. "They heard all the compliments about their teacher and school that the presenters shared during the Award assembly," says Traci. "The students are proud of me, but they are also proud of each other."
Milken Educator Awards: How did you end up in education?
Traci Druschke: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I loved playing school with friends and helping others.
MEA: Why elementary school?
Traci: Because it's the foundation of education. I'm devoted to making learning active and engaging, to helping foster my students' love of learning throughout their educational journey.
My favorite thing about third grade is that students get sarcasm and can laugh at themselves and with others. They are not "too cool for school" and want to make their teacher happy. They truly have a love of learning. The most frustrating thing about third-graders: Sometimes their choices aren't so smart when I'm not around.
MEA: What was your first job?
Traci: Working at The Buckle, a clothing store. I learned how to work with the public, approach people even when it may not feel comfortable, and function as part of a team.
MEA: Who was your most memorable elementary school teacher?
Traci: Mrs. Carolyn Ferber. I had her for fourth grade, and she taught me what it means to truly love chocolate. Oh, and that teaching is an honorable profession! She still checks in on me to this day.
MEA: Any educators in your family?
Traci: My grandmother was a teacher, but I never got to meet her. She passed away when my dad was just a teenager. I'm sure she would be blown away by how much education has changed.
MEA: Which subject did you love (or not)?
Traci: My favorite subject has always been reading. Reading is the gateway to being successful at all other subjects. My least favorite as a kid was math, and I really struggled with it. I thought there was one way to solve a problem and couldn't get around that. I love to teach math now because there are so many strategies to use. I share my own struggle with the kids, and they know there is always more than one way to figure out a problem.
MEA: Tell us about your first class.
Traci: It was in Kissimmee, Florida, at Ventura Elementary School. They were my guinea pigs. They had to learn with me. Not only was it my first year teaching, but it was also my first year living in Florida, away from family and friends. I had to get to know the culture and immerse myself in the Spanish-speaking community. It was hard, but that experience helped me focus on bettering myself as a teacher and learning who I was and who I wanted to become.
MEA: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Traci: Students take even more pride in their work because they heard all the compliments that the presenters shared during the Award assembly about their teacher and their school. My students witness my hard work daily and notice that I implement [Stephen Covey's] seven habits. They had the opportunity to see a teacher rewarded for doing so. The students are proud of me, but they are also proud of each other.
MEA: What do you hope your students remember about you and their time in your class?
Traci: That I set high expectations for them, believe in them, and made learning fun, engaging, and energizing.
MEA: How do you involve parents and families in your class?
Traci: My classroom has a private Facebook page where I share unique learning experiences. Several parents spend Tuesdays and Thursdays in my room helping with clerical jobs, small groups, and one-on-one support. Our third-grade team invites parents to performances in our rooms, such as Reader's Theaters. I send home weekly newsletters, send text alerts with Remind 101, and I've created a Weebly site. Parents are encouraged to attend field trips and classroom parties. We have an amazing PTA, filled with parents who have the same goal for their child: to succeed.
MEA: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Traci: First thing in the morning. I love greeting my students with a fist pump as they enter my room. We greet each other with smiles and look forward to a full day of learning.
MEA: What's the biggest challenge you face in your classroom?
Traci: The biggest challenges are the different ability levels and increased class size. With 26-28 students in my room, it is difficult to meet everyone's needs without the help of others. I constantly monitor, so when I observe a student isn't grasping a concept, I want to teach them one-on-one immediately.
MEA: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?
Traci: I would create an outside classroom. This classroom would be very innovative, with open seating, a field track and a nature preserve. This could be a great initiative to address student and staff obesity. In addition, it would allow healthy alternatives for staff and students throughout the school day.
MEA: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Traci: I would probably be a therapist. I am a very good listener and can offer strategies to others to problem-solve.
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?
Traci: We can do a better job of acknowledging the profound impact teachers have on our future. It is an honorable profession that is often viewed as a thankless job. We need to share positive stories about the millions of teachers who are making valuable differences in children's lives, compensate teachers for their efforts, and just say thank you.
MEA: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when..."
Traci: ...when my classroom can run itself when I have to be out, and when my kids transition from students to leaders of the building.
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