Teacher of the Week: Lisa Roundtree

Lisa Roundtree teaches her South Side kindergarten class in front of a smartboard.

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Lisa Roundtree, kindergarten, South Side Elementary School, Champaign

The kindergarten students at Champaign’s South Side Elementary who are learning remotely this year have never set foot in their classrooms, and that means many of the them have likely never met each other in person. That’s why each day, Lisa Roundtree and her two fellow kindergarten teachers, Anna Blacker and Kaley Poll, begin their classes in one large Zoom session, so the students can familiarize themselves with each other, even if they can’t see each other in person.

Of Roundtree’s 20 years in the Champaign district, where she’s been a first-grade teacher, reading interventionist and kindergarten teacher, this year certainly stands out. In whatever ways she can, though, she’s made sure to engage kids as they learn to read, write and interact with each other, even if they’re not physically at school.

I find my work important because ... I have the amazing opportunity to influence leaders and learners during their first year of school. I am able to help them see the importance of forming relationships with their classmates and to see themselves as learners in life.

I became a teacher because ... I loved being a student at all levels of schooling and wanted to help facilitate that love of learning and enjoyment for being at school with children each and every day.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is ... a Gingerbread Man unit during the first week of kindergarten that kicks off with the class creating a giant gingerbread cookie. Every year, that sneaky thing takes off while we are in class. Throughout the week, we read different versions of the story and get notes from the Gingerbread Man leading us to different parts of the school and meeting different staff members. The students are at an age where there is this slight level of belief that this gingerbread cookie is actually running around the school leaving notes. It is so fun to see the excitement on their faces.

My most fulfilling moment on the job is when ... kindergarten students take on the identity as a reader and writer. Oftentimes, the kids start the year solidifying their letter knowledge and by the end the year are reading and writing up a storm. The sky is the limit!

Something else I’m passionate about is ... supporting my own children in their different sporting activities. I can’t even quantify the number of hours I have spent over the years yelling my head off next to the wrestling mat, basketball court, baseball field, track, gymnastics mat or golf course (well, maybe a little quieter there). Our schedules are so full now that I wish I could clone myself to be able to attend each and every event.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was ... Third grade, Mrs. Eisaman, Welty Street Elementary School in Greensburg, Pa. My favorite subject to study as I got older was French. I started studying French in middle school and continued through high school. We hosted several French exchange students at our home during high school, and I recently reconnected with one of those students. I have always wanted to travel to France, so I would love to make that a reality by going to visit her in the future.

I engage students during this strange time by ... providing them with different sized groupings and combinations of students throughout the daily session. I could not have survived this year without the rest of our amazing kindergarten team of Anna Blacker and Kaley Poll, in addition to other support staff. On Zoom, we have all of the kindergarten students log in to one session to start the day and then throughout the two and half hours, we are constantly mixing the kids up into smaller breakout rooms for literacy, math, and thematic learning. This has allowed students to get to know all of their grade-level classmates and always keep things fresh.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be ... a private investigator. I love the challenge of finding out information about people and places. When friends and family need help solving a mystery, I’m their gal! Whether it is finding old classmates, finding ways that South Side families are connected to each other or genealogy research finding long lost family members, I think of each one as a puzzle and am relentless in my pursuit of finding the answers.

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