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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Beechwood Elementary Teacher Brings Energy and Fun to the Classroom

Whenever Jessica Enzweiler enters her 4th grade classroom at Beechwood Elementary School, it literally marks a trip back through time.  The desks?  They were laid out a little differently back then.  But some two decades ago, Enzweiler was a 4th grader in the very classroom that she now leads.  And leads memorably.  

"Every day, Mrs. Enzweiler will greet us at the door or in the hallway before we go in," said Macy Armstrong, a 4th grade student who added, "and she'll say, 'we are going to be doing something fun today'."

And Mrs. Enzweiler says she embraces the challenge to deliver on that promise daily, often trading ideas with fellow teachers to see what will blossom.

"It's very special," Enzweier said of the privilege to teach in the school she attended.  "My colleagues are wonderful and this community is so supportive."

On the Friday before the Super Bowl, students used green butcher paper to design football fields that served as their table coverings for the day.  To learn geography, the children studied maps to determine which direction the Patriots and Rams needed to travel (North, South, East or West) to get to Atlanta for the championship game.  In this setting, it's all about making learning come to life by making it enjoyable.

"I want students to, first and foremost, take ownership for their own learning," said Enzweiler, in her third year at Beechwood after teaching for six years at different districts in Northern Kentucky.  "By making it fun, students tend to connect with lessons and they are more memorable."

The students acted out a play to learn firsthand about the hardships Dr. Martin Luther King faced as a young boy growing up in the racially turbulent South.  One student approached Mrs. Enzweiler, very concerned that Dr. King received warm and sour milk on shopping trips with his mother instead of the cold and fresh variety.   

To practice their fractions problems before a math test, students broke out into two separate teams, or families, to take part in a simulation of the game show "Family Feud".  The healthy competition would have made former host Richard Dawson and current host Steve Harvey proud.

"It was so energetic and everyone was hoping to win," said Coen Yap, a student in the classroom.  "I'll always remember that Mrs. Enzweiler could easily copy things from a textbook and have it be boring.  She doesn't do that.  She wants it to be fun."

Enzweiler said she knew she wanted to be a teacher as far back as 1st grade, when she was a student in Cathy Wolff's class.  Wolff has taught at Beechwood for more than 25 years and accepted the Blue Ribbon Award on behalf of the school in 2016.

"It was the sense of community that Mrs. Wolff created.  Every student knew that he or she was special and cared for," remembers Enzweiler.

And it's that same compassion that Enzweiler encourages her students to exhibit toward one another in the classroom every day.  Students write uplifting messages on sticky notes about their classmates to post on the classroom door in a section called "The Proud Cloud".  Aran wrote that, "I am proud of our group for working hard and trying their best on the science test."  

Character and respect matter here.  It's all about embodying "The Beechwood Way".  Each month, a student receives a Pineapple Award for "standing tall and being sweet".  This month's recipient, Bennett, displayed the actual fruit on his desk while writing in his school-issued Chromebook.

In terms of legacy, of how Enzweiler wants her students to remember her, it's about what kind of people they become long after they leave her classroom.

"I want them to be kind and compassionate."

Learning to be the best human beings they can be?  In a long line of Mrs. Enzweiler's memorable lesson plans, that is likely the most impactful of all.

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