02/04/2008
Teacher Tribute
Kim Rakosky wins My Voice Award

Service-learning connections to the classroom curriculum

As a teacher, service-learning can “sneak up” on you in funny ways.

For example, take Kim Rakosky, our newest My Voice award winner. Her 4th grade class at Bache-Martin Elementary School in Fairmount has chosen homelessness as the focus of their service-learning project.

As part of the core curriculum’s literacy requirement, her class was reading “Stealing Home,” a book about a young boy who lives with his grandfather and whose life is disrupted when his “cranky” aunt moves in with them. As Kim and the class read the book together, she realized there was a “homelessness” element to the story that she’d not recognized in previous readings. It provided a perfect opportunity for her students to discuss some of the causes and effects associated with the issue.

“This is a sharp class,” she says. “They realize how this can happen to anybody. I think the kids understand this better than some adults.”

This is Kim’s second year in the Teacher Network and she’s learned a few things that will benefit this class and future groups of students. For instance, she’s more able to make curriculum connections (particularly in literacy), knows to plan earlier for certain elements of a project, and understands that if a survey is included, it needs to be structured in such way as to accommodate the data analysis skills of her young researchers.

And she has certainly seen how service-learning adds to her classroom environment. In contrast to their sometimes less than ideal behavior and treatment of their peers, Kim sees the “empathy switch” turn on when the students are discussing their project. She thinks it is important for them to see that difference -- to see things in their own behavior.

“We need to bring out the good character in children. Schools need to play some role – some way to let children voice their concerns. I want them to feel they can make a contribution, no matter how small, to the various communities to which they belong.”

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