The youngest learners at Westside Elementary School in Spring Hill, Florida, thrive in April Crisci’s supportive, collaborative K-1 classroom. Crisci holds high expectations for all students and engages them in rigorous lessons that motivate them to reach their potential. To address the learning interruptions caused by the pandemic in spring 2020, she pushed to shift to her classroom’s current vertical model, where she focuses on reading, language arts and social studies while another teacher handles math and science. Students are grouped based on ability rather than age or grade level, allowing for individualized learning experiences that provide extra support for those who need it and enrichment for students who are ready for deeper learning.
Crisci welcomes colleagues from the building and district to observe in her classroom, and students are always eager to share what they are learning when visitors join them. Kindergarteners leave Crisci’s classroom able to write and type a full paragraph independently, and her students outperform their peers at Westside and in Hernando County. During spring 2020, even with the pandemic, 92% of Crisci’s students ended on or above grade level in ELA, with 98% meeting expected growth.
Always looking for fresh ideas, Crisci seeks out professional development and brings new strategies back to her classroom and peers, including LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling); Thinking Maps; and Sonday System, a multisensory intervention system for beginning readers. She serves on the district’s ELA kindergarten task force and helped develop a fluid curriculum map that meets the rigor of state standards. Crisci chairs the Positive Behavior Support committee, mentors new and pre-service teachers, and encouraged Westside staff to participate in learning walks so teachers could observe each other’s classrooms. When the school transitioned suddenly to remote learning in spring 2020, Crisci developed a plan for kindergarten and first grade, and she met daily with her team to make sure they felt supported.
Crisci builds strong relationships with her students and fosters a love of learning that follows them throughout their schooling. She keeps up with former students as they move up at Westside, and they frequently return to her classroom as visitors and volunteers. Crisci puts the same effort into building relationships with families, communicating with them frequently and working around any obstacles to make sure they can be involved in their children’s education.
Crisci earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from University of South Florida in 2004.
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