By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Nishi Anjali Crook graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Michigan University in 2012 with a triple minor in mathematics, reading, and integrated sciences. After student teaching with cooperating teacher Sandy Kreger at Burns Park, she taught remedial math to 6th-8th graders for one year and then general education to 3rd-5th graders. Of her seven years teaching children, four have been at Burns Park.
In 2015-2017, she had the pleasure of “looping up” with her 3rd grade class to 4th grade and she has been teaching 4th graders since.
Crook is the eldest daughter of John and Abha Wiersba and has two younger sisters, Priya and Chandani. Her parents met at the University of Michigan and later moved to New York, where she was born. When she was three, they moved back to Michigan and settled in Saline. Crook says she feels lucky to live near her maternal grandparents, who also live in Saline. They moved from India to the U.S. in 1966 so that her grandfather could attend graduate school at the University of Michigan.
She married Jarrid Michael Crook in the summer of 2012 after they both graduated from EMU. They are proud parents of their beautiful tri-colored corgi, officially named Pepper Potts, Wielder of Doomhammer. The couple enjoys pampering their fur baby, spending time with family, and relaxing at downtown Ann Arbor restaurants. They are excited about their upcoming move into a new home in Ypsilanti and look forward to having a backyard.
Painting is one of Crook’s favorite ways to spend her free time. She enjoys dabbling with new techniques and paints mostly realistic pictures and murals but has been enjoying experimenting with acrylic flow and mixed media pieces recently. In addition to artwork, she spends her free time playing board games, tutoring, reading mysteries and autobiographies, and training Pepper.
What is the best part of beginning the school year? I am most excited about meeting my new students at our fun “Popsicles in the Park” event. But my excitement for the school year really begins with choosing my new classroom theme! I love creating matching name tags, posters, and bulletin boards, since the kids latch onto the theme during the year and we have fun including it in our daily mini lessons in all subjects.
How do you show school spirit? I’m proud to teach at and be a part of the Burns Park Elementary community by wearing my Burns Park T-shirt. Once I was even a BPE penguin during our school Halloween parade.
What do you most look forward to every year? Every year I look forward to watching my class perform a wax museum for the BPE community. It is wonderful seeing all the students shine during their culminating research project! I enjoy watching their proud faces as they share their memorized speeches, in character as famous historical figures. It is exciting for them to share this project with their family members, staff members, and other students.
What inspired you to become a teacher? My third grade teacher, Mr. Kerr, was my initial inspiration. He was an outstanding educator who thought of children as individuals. He gave his students many choices and the time to complete their projects well. He even gave me and my mother the opportunity to share our Indian heritage during an “India Day” in my classroom after I returned from a trip to India. I was proud to showcase my traditional dance, food, and art with the class. At the end of the school year, he did a most touching thing: he asked to keep and frame a piece of my artwork. When Mr. Kerr became my art teacher in the 5th and 6th grades, my artwork remained hanging in his classroom and when I graduated from high school, he returned the piece back to me. I will always treasure my experiences with him as a general education and art teacher. I won’t forget the choices that I was given and the way he made me feel talented.
In addition to having a memorable teacher early on, I began volunteering with my mother’s English Language students while attending Saline High School. Working with kids one-on-one helped solidify my passion and career choice. I loved witnessing the growth a child can make over a few short weeks. Working with children individually allowed me to build relationships more quickly and fine tune my lessons to meet their individual needs.
How do you keep 21st century students engaged? I have found that students become much more engaged in their learning when they are given choices. Students learn how to set and monitor individual goals, use technology to express and test their understanding, and lead one another in thoughtful conversations revolving around their literacy circle books. In the past couple years, I have found that the students even want to take ownership for their own schedules in regards to literacy circles. The more responsibility and choice I give them, the more they astonish me with their engagement and growth.
What is teaching to you? Teaching is much more than the content and skills that we teach our students. Teaching is about instilling lifelong values and building a safe community with those around us. Spending time discussing, reading about, modeling, and reflecting on life skills such as kindness, organization, and building friendships is an important component of teaching.
How do you recharge? Painting allows me to be swept up with its details and techniques. I find that my artwork helps me refocus. This summer I intend to explore new techniques and spend more time painting realistic scenes on site.
What’s most exciting about your personal life? Watching our house being built is very exciting as we see the choices we made come to life! We can appreciate the hard work that is put into our home and look forward to decorating and making the house into our own home space this fall.