Joanie Wickham, May 2011 Teacher of the Month
SACRAMENTO, CA - Visitors will find second graders singing songs about dinosaurs, the slave trade and just about anything else in Joanie Wickham's classroom.
Wickham, a second grade teacher at Sacramento's Leonardo da Vinci School, also plays a guitar. She said the songs help her students remember their lessons.
Wickham should know. She's been teaching school for 26 years and carrying on a family tradition.
"I always wanted to be a teacher. My sisters were all teachers," Wickham explained.
Her students don't seem to mind practicing their writing skills. Wickham entices them by telling them they have to write a letter to their parents persuading them to get a new dog. The students eagerly write about how they will be responsible and care for the dog.
Students then moved on to one of three groups run by parents.
Wickham said, "I could not do it without the parents. They have been wonderful."
The parents help students with reading, math and history lessons.
At a time when many schools don't have the funds, parents pitch in and help Wickham with field trips and projects outside of the classroom.
"We've had fundraising," Wickham said. "We do a very special arts project (with special needs students) and we have to raise money to do that."
Wickham's students have also planted a school garden and trees.
"It's called seed to seedling," Wickham explained. "We raise our acorns and then they plant the trees."
Her students have also raised salmon and trout and released them into the American River. They've gone to Mount Diablo to hunt for fossils and visited caves in Amador and Calaveras counties.
Wickham believes teaching is about more than just academics.
"I want my students to be able to relate to each other and to work in cooperative groups," she said. "I want them to feel good about themselves, have the confidence to go on and take chances."
She said she'll probably spend another seven years in the classroom before she retires. But like many teachers, she believes she'll probably still spend time with children.
"I'll probably do substitute teaching or maybe tutoring," laughed Wickham. "I also have grandchildren. I love teaching. I really do. I guess it's in my blood."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org