Teacher of the Week: Kari Calcagno

Teacher of the Week: Kari Calcagno

On Wednesdays, we'll spotlight a difference-making area educator. To nominate a teacher, tweet to education reporter @Nicole_Lafond with the hashtag "#TeacherOfTheWeek."

This week: Meet KARI CALCAGNO, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Trail Elementary School in Mahomet, who says the best part of her job is in August, when she gets to meet her new class of kiddos.

"After teaching 30 years, I have been blessed to have taught some pretty amazing students," she said.

The hardest part of being a teacher for her? "The end of the school year."

What makes your school unique? Lincoln Trail has great parents and a great staff. Anytime help is needed, parents and teachers pitch in.

What do your students like most about you? I asked my class: 'Funny, nice, generous, great teacher, caring and smart.' Nice, right?

Favorite tactic for getting students to pay attention? I say: 'Ba da ba ba ba.' Kids say: 'I'm lovin' it.'

Three items you have on your desk? Pictures of my family, an apple weight that the kids always look at and a block Nancy Mougey gave me when I graduated with my master's.

Teaching supply you can't live without? Technology. I can't imagine teaching without a Smart Board, a Chromebook for all my students and my laptop. Using Google Classroom, Google apps and having my textbooks online has changed my teaching and I wouldn't go back.

Funniest question a student has ever asked you? 'Did you try to fix your hair this morning?'

One of my favorite teachers growing up was ... Mrs. Farley. She was my fourth-grade teacher. She was always singing, dancing and so patient. She looks the same today as she did when I was in fourth grade, beautiful!

Favorite hobby? Reading books. Mrs. Bennett, our Librarian, years ago highly suggested teachers read an adult book and then a children's book. I try to do this. Children's books today are amazing. I still have a hard time reading science fiction, but my boys love these, so I try.

Tell me about a lesson plan you're most proud of. This is an old lesson, but I still love it. My first year I had my students work on their interviewing skills. They interviewed for an occupation they were interested in and then dressed like their occupation. A narrator reads their script and the student walks down a runway as it is read. Mrs. McCartney and Mrs. Porter joined me with their classes, and Dana Martin now participates with me. Mrs. Martin has added her youthful twist with music being played throughout the show. One evening we perform our Career Fashion Show for our parents. We have students make an iMovie of pictures the kids submit as they are interviewing. The movie puts a tear in my eye each year. Mrs. Rinkle added a song years ago, but Miss McDonald our past music teacher wrote an original song.

Subject/topic you enjoy teaching the most? Math. I love teaching the new College Prep Mathematics program. It is amazing to hear how kids collaborate to solve problems.

Social media you use most often? I keep in touch with so many former students and parents on Facebook. I love seeing my students as they grow-up. I've seen so many students getting married, having children and become wonderful adults.

What's your classroom pet peeve? I dislike when my kids don't keep their areas clean. We are transitioning to tables, instead of desks, after winter break. We'll see how this goes.

If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go? Of course, it would be Italy. I hope to visit when I retire in four-and-a-half years.

Latest you've stayed at school working? I usually leave by 5 p.m., but when I have to get ready for an event, it may be 6 or 7 p.m.

What does your morning routine look like? This year, we added 'Building Community' to the morning schedule. My students sit in a circle. They rotate through the class being the leader. In our meeting, we start by shaking hands with the person next to us and saying 'Good morning' in many different languages. The leader counts off our class rules. The leader than pulls a questions that all students ask, such as 'Tell us something you are proud of' or 'What is a gift you want for Christmas?' My class and I both love this time. We have really gotten to know each other.

Where did you go to college and why did you decided to get into education? I had always loved baby-sitting and working with students. I always knew I would be a teacher. I got my bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Illinois.

What's the best day of the week? Thursday. Weird, I know, but I feel we are on a roll and I have time to work one-on-one or in small groups on this day.

My favorite song is ... Always changing, but usually it is a country song.

If I weren't a teacher, I would be ... A social worker.

I'm always texting ... My husband, Tony; daughters, Maddie and Allie; mom; and many friends.

If I could get free tickets to a concert it would be to see ... Adele.

My favorite local restaurant is ... Nando Milano Trattoria. Chef Alessio is a pretty amazing chef.

One item on my bucket list is ... To have some grandbabies.

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