Elizabeth Recla, Lakewood Elementary fifth grade teacher

Elizabeth Recla is from Summerville, South Carolina. This is her nineteenth year of teaching and fifth year with AAPS. Recla lives in Ann Arbor with her husband Ryan, a Pioneer graduate, her son Rider, a 10th grader at Skyline, and her daughter, Isabella, who is in sixth grade at Forsythe. She enjoys watching her children play sports, cooking, being outdoors, and traveling. She served as a co-coach for an Ann Arbor girls’ soccer team through Rec and Ed for seven years.
The family’s cat, Hatteras, is named after their favorite vacation destination, Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Recla says the beaches of North and South Carolina are her happy place.

What was always written on your report card in grade school?
I had to reach out to my parents for help with this one. According to my mom, my report card would say that I got along well with others, was helpful, and was good-natured. 

What were you like in fifth grade, and does the memory help you relate to your students?
I was very social and competitive. I remember I loved being with my friends, playing games, and working on special projects in school. I realize that friendships and opportunities for my students to work, play, and create together are very beneficial to their development. I try to plan special events to celebrate and enhance their learning. For example, my students have tapped maple trees to make syrup, made dumplings during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and made pancakes to practice fractions. I also take time out of our day to just have fun together. That might include a quick game of Uno, Sorry, or playing Battle Ship while learning about ordered pairs and coordinates. 

When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
I remember a lot of trial and error while trying to figure out what systems and strategies worked best for both my students and myself. 

​​What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
I would remind new teachers that taking the time to make connections and build a community in their classroom is crucial. Also, it is so important to teach routines and procedures. Model, model, and model some more. Taking the time to do this in the first few months of school will make the year go so much smoother. 

What do you think of AAPS’ emphasis this year on dignity and belonging?
I think this is so very important especially as we are slowly and carefully coming out of a global pandemic. Now, more than ever, our students need to feel valued, welcomed, and respected in our learning spaces. We are all in different places with different needs and comfort levels. When a child feels seen and respected and a part of the community, only then can learning happen. 

What inspired you to become a teacher?
My husband and I met while attending Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach. I was pursuing a degree in marine biology. While working as a swim coach I realized how much I loved working with children. I changed my major and eventually transferred to Eastern Michigan University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and years later, a  Master of Arts in Reading. 

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
The best compliments are when parents tell me, years after having their child in my class, that they still talk about how much they enjoyed being in my class.

In your five years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
I have learned that I am respected as an educator and have the autonomy to make decisions and do what I think is best for my students.  

Describe an average workday. 
I arrive at school at about 8 a.m. each morning. I greet my 5th graders at the classroom door at the arrival bell. My students know to come in and read my morning message displayed on the whiteboard. This also has a To-Do List for them to get started on. Students get started on their Words Their Way Word study and then Lexia, while I finish up with greeting everyone and taking attendance. We then have a Morning Meeting and go right into Reader’s Workshop,  Writing, then PLTW. Depending on the day, we may have a special in the morning, if not we have recess at 11:32 and then lunch. We then come back into the classroom for Quiet Time. During this time students are making a choice to either read, write or draw, while we listen to some calming music usually with an accompanying image on the whiteboard. Currently, we have an image of waves crashing on a tropical beach. In the afternoon we have Math, Health, Social Studies or Science, and more specials. In 5th grade students have Art, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, P.E., and Spanish. We end our day by cleaning up and recording any assignments in our homework planners, and finally coming together again in a Closing Circle. 

What’s the happiest part of your day?
I enjoy the Greeting and Sharing portion of our Morning Meeting. I enjoy listening to each child respond to a common question. It is such a positive way to begin our day, and I get to learn some interesting things about my students that I may not otherwise have the opportunity to do. 

Apps you can’t live without:
I would have to say my favorite app these days is Shipt. Being a busy working mom of two kids, shopping for groceries would take up several hours of my weekend, which I would so much rather spend with my family. Having groceries shopped for and delivered to my home is such a game-changer.

I also really enjoy the Calm app. I use this app daily for calming music during Quiet Time after lunch. Also, on the nights that I can not seem to turn my brain off to fall asleep, I can listen to a bedtime story and it does the trick every time. 

What makes teaching at Lakewood unique?
Lakewood is often referred to as “a little hidden gem.” I love that it is tucked away in a neighborhood surrounded by beautiful trees, an amazing walking track, and a beautiful pond to visit for science lessons. We have students from many different countries that we showcase with colorful flags at our entrance. Each year I have students representing multiple countries and languages in my classroom. The Lakewood staff is so supportive, welcoming, and fun! Lakewood families have proven to be some of the most supportive and involved families I have ever worked with. I feel so fortunate to be a Lakewood Lizard! 

How do you keep students engaged?
I keep my students engaged by ensuring they see themselves in all parts of our learning. I want them to be able to relate to the literature we read, the projects we engage in, and the discussions and conversations we have. I want them to make connections to the learning with their lives outside of the classroom. When students take ownership of their learning and are proud of their work, they are going to want to do their very best. 

How do you show school spirit?
I show my spirit by wearing my Lakewood gear and having fun with the activities we do as a school community. Each year we have a Spirit Week with a different theme each day. I enjoy participating right along with my students. 

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
I think most teachers would agree that the most rewarding part of teaching is that moment when something clicks for a student. It could be math concepts they are having a difficult time with or making a connection across different areas of the curriculum. 

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
I wish everyone realized that teachers are 100 percent committed to the success of our students. This includes their academic achievements, as well as their emotional well-being. I wish people realized the amount of work that goes into this profession outside the “normal” hours of a school day. My students are constantly on my mind and I work very hard every day to ensure they are receiving the best of me. I love teaching and can not imagine doing anything else. 

How do you recharge?
During the school year, I recharge by taking a walk after school. I try to do this every day regardless of the weather. It is so relaxing to get some fresh air, exercise, and time alone to listen to music or a good book. Once I get my walk-in, I am ready to tackle dinner and homework help with my kids. 

How do you spend your summers?
As soon as school is out, I hit the road with my kiddos. I enjoy visiting my family and friends and spending time in the Upper Peninsula. Most summers, my family and I spend a week together at the beach. I love that I can be with my siblings and my kids can have fun with their cousins. I love reading, and spend the summer catching up on all the reading I do not have time for during the school year. 

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now?
In the past few years, I have enjoyed taking on more roles and leadership positions. I have enjoyed being a new teacher mentor, chairing the Social Committee, and being a member of the school’s Equity Team, CIS, and safety patrol co-leader. I would love to someday be a Building Literacy coach or curriculum developer. 

During remote learning, I was a member of the Fifth Grade Social Studies Committee. We worked hard to revamp the Social Studies curriculum to be more culturally responsive. This was a time of deep reflection and collaboration with team members around culturally relevant pedagogy. I am excited to continue this work this year with the district’s professional development series with Cornelius Minor. 

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