Walk into Janet Do’s first-grade classroom at Whitman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, and you’ll find a class of excited, fully engaged students making great strides in academic and social-emotional learning. Do leads them in rhythmic songs and chants to cement concepts, facts and vocabulary as they work in small groups or independently. In her “Justice Fighters” unit, Do introduces her young students to social issues in the community, taking on complex topics in an age-appropriate way. She constantly monitors the progress of every student, differentiating instruction to remove barriers, and works hard to make the learning standards accessible for all students without sacrificing rigor. Do covers the walls with work and instruction charts that include photos of herself and the children, encouraging students to visualize themselves in the work. She purposely uses academic language to refer to her young pupils, calling them “scholars” and “mentors.”
Do has worked on curriculum, serves on the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support) team, and has led professional development for her colleagues on differentiating instruction. Her excitement about the district’s new EngageNY reading curriculum inspired colleagues during the transition. Administrators often send new teachers to observe in her classroom. Do’s instruction helps her students make great strides: More than 70% of her class demonstrated upwards of 1.5 years’ growth in reading last year, though only two of her 21 students began the year reading at grade level. Classroom management is also a strength, with discipline referrals decreasing from 10 per week during her students’ kindergarten year to just 10 for the entire year in her first-grade classroom.
Do is a master at building community and creates a classroom students and families love. A product of Portland Public Schools, she forms strong, genuine relationships, helps all students set and reach attainable goals, incorporates brain science and mindfulness techniques, and is quick to advocate for children with special needs. Whitman serves an area with many transient families, so Do welcomes new students into her classroom throughout the year, quickly making them and their families feel at home. She spends recess playing games on the playground; at lunchtime, students who have returned their daily reading logs earn the privilege of eating lunch with her. Do speaks Vietnamese and was instrumental in planning Whitman’s first Multicultural Night, where she set up a booth to teach children how to use chopsticks.
Do earned a bachelor’s in arts and letters in 2012 and a master’s in education in 2013 from Portland State University.
Press release: Engaging and Elevating 1st Grade "Scholars" Earns Janet Do a $25,000 Milken Educator Award
Video: Janet Do (OR '18) Remarks at her Surprise Milken Award Notification
“I love the community that I build with students and the families. I try to honor where they are.” — Whitman Elementary teacher..." (read more)