By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Catherine Glei was born outside Chicago, the oldest of three children born to an inventor/scientist father and a mother who was also a nurse. She attended elementary, middle school and two years of high school in Illinois and later moved to Michigan in the middle of her sophomore year in high school.
Glei earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with minors in speech and music from Spring Arbor University, and later earned a master’s degree in curriculum development and Instruction from Indiana University and Spring Arbor University.
Upon completing her student teaching, she taught kindergarten at Townsend Elementary School in Vandercook Lake. After moving to the west side of the state, Glei taught special education, 5th grade, and 2nd grade and then returned to kindergarten, her favorite.
She currently teaches kindergarten at Eberwhite Elementary School, as well as teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the School of Education at Spring Arbor University. Cathy and her husband live in Ypsilanti with two of their three daughters, and their English Springer Spaniel, Otis. Her hobbies include reading, camping, kayaking, hammocking, singing and spending time with her family.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? On my report card, it was often noted that I was a hard worker, but very social.
What were you like in high school? If you were a bug on the wall in my high school, you would have seen me hanging around with a diverse group of friends. I enjoyed being active in a variety of activities, including sports, music, drama and outreach work in Brazil and Mexico. Tennis and volleyball were my two top sports. I also performed in the choir and drama club, performing in four musicals over my four years in high school. Those included: Grease, The King and I, The Sound of Music and The Music Man. I sang in two choirs, concert choir, and show choir. I am grateful for the friendships and the opportunities that I had in high school.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out? After I finished student teaching, I was hired to teach Kindergarten at Townsend Elementary School in Vandercook Lake. I vividly remember the people I worked with and The Letter People, a curriculum used at that time for teaching letters and sounds to kindergarten students.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? The advice I would give a first-year teacher would be to invest your life in your students. Be a learner of your students. Invest time getting to know them—their hobbies, interests, struggles, and successes and likewise, share your life with them, letting them know that you are authentic.
What inspired you to become a teacher? At an early age, I played school with my siblings, neighborhood friends, and dolls. I loved to “play school”. I also had an amazing teacher who supported me at a difficult time in my life. The kindness shown to me by that teacher was a tremendous inspiration to me.
Which do you enjoy more? Teaching or coaching? I enjoy coaching within my teaching. I love presenting a mini-lesson, for example in Reader’s Workshop, sitting alongside my kiddos in a conference, and coaching them throughout the process of making new discoveries about themselves as readers.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? “Mrs. Glei, I don’t want to leave kindergarten”. . . . . Or: “You made a difference in my life.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? Of my nearly 25 years of teaching, five years in AAPS, the most important thing I have learned about teaching is that no matter where you are in the world, diversity makes us stronger. Each person is uniquely crafted with gifts and abilities and the collective use of those abilities makes the classroom and school environment great.
In addition, within teaching, there is a constant metamorphosis, a changing within the minds and hearts of the students and the teacher. The process is to be cherished. Learning is not a fast-paced process but is a journey that is scaffolded across many years of development, experiences, and relationships.
Describe an average workday. My average workday would look something like this:
1) Arrive at school to prepare the room for the day.
2) I welcome my students at the door with a smile accompanied by a high five, handshake or hug. They choose.
3) I connect with kids and take care of classroom business.
4) Morning meeting. We gather at our meeting place to greet each other, share a message and begin our day.
5) Writer’s Workshop. I teach a mini-lesson, followed by independent practice at their writing spots and then we gather together for closure, a sharing time.
6) Snack and recess. We have a picnic together at the picnic table and then play.
7) Reader’s Workshop. I teach a mini-lesson, followed by independent practice around the room. During their reading, I am conferencing with students and meeting with guided
reading groups. We end our workshop with sharing – celebrating our growth as readers.
8) Lunch and recess. I walk the kids to lunch. Then I prepare in my room for the afternoon
while I eat. I often have lunch with Nana, a Foster Grandparent in my classroom.
9) Quiet time. I bring the kids in from recess and we enjoy quiet time. During this time, I may be
reading with kids or meeting with kids to set new learning goals and targets.
10) Planning time. A necessity to be ready for my kiddos.
11) Math workshop. We do some daily math warm-up activities to engage our minds and then I
am found wearing a crown while I meet with guided math groups.
12) Science & social studies. Following math workshop, you may find my classroom exploring nature from
the wonder jar or our collection of wonderings/noticings about the world around us.
13) Closing circle. This is a time for us to reflect about our day, celebrate and then get ready for
14) Saying goodbyes. We say goodbye just as we said “Welcome back”—with high fives, goody handshakes or hugs.
15) Prepping for the next day and packing up to head home and crash.
What’s the happiest part of your day? The happiest part of my day is when my students race to the door of the classroom with a smile and an “I’m ready for a new day” attitude.
Favorite websites: Amazon, Go Noodle, Plickers, Raz-Plus.
Apps you can’t live without: Seesaw, Dreambox.
What makes teaching at Eberwhite unique? The Eberwhite community of families, neighbors, staff, and students is amazing! The community really comes together to support one another on so many levels and it is contagious.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? The work is all-consuming.
How do you recharge? Simple things really recharge me such as watching a worm wiggle across the mud, listening to birds singing or the humming of bees, coffee with a friend, hammocking on breezy days, reading a book, enjoying moments of silence and solitude, journaling, and singing.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? I love what I do and I love the people I work with.
In my personal life, I am at a stage where my daughters have left the nest or are beginning to leave the nest. Each one of them is in a different stage of life. My youngest is heading to college, my middle daughter will soon begin her student teaching, and my oldest daughter is married and living in Kentucky.
How do you spend your summers? I spend my summers with my family enjoying the outdoors.
So many Ann Arbor area memories- including education- are available on the home-grown YouTube digital video website: http://www.YouTube.com/WatchmanOfTheTracks. The former Bolgos Farm Sugar Bush – a walk around a local farm with the late, 101-year-old Don Staebler – the building of the Ann Arbor Pioneer HS in the early 1950s – a tour of the hamlet of Dixboro including it’s one-room schoolhouse (still standing). Furnished by Dale Leslie (AAHS, ’66) who fathered Drew C. Leslie (AAPHS, 1998) and Graham T. Leslie (AAPHS, 2000).