Pecatonica teacher, students have a whale-of-a-time in first gra - – Rockford’s News Leader

Pecatonica teacher, students have a whale-of-a-time in first grade


The wonderful whales of Pecatonica Elementary may sound like something you'd find in an aquarium or even by a beach, but it's a first grade class. The under-the-sea theme and love for ocean life gives our Teacher of the Week, Mrs. Laura Wanke just the magic she needs to keep her students excited for learning.

"The art teacher and I teamed up, and we drew a big picture of a whale and then the spout," says Mrs. Wanke, now in her tenth year teaching. Kids laid in the spout and pretended they were being shot up out of the whale."

The creativity doesn't stop at her ocean-themed classroom. It blends into every lesson she teaches. From hat day all the way down to the candy the kids enjoy.

"We just started working on predictions, and so the other day the candy corn bandit came and took our candy, so we had to predict where he took our candy," Wanke says. "We went on a hunt around the school, and that lesson, I think, will stick with them for when we go to talk about making predictions in a book."

She shares her ideas on her teacher blog. Pictures, projects, so other teachers around the country can see how her whale of a classroom keeps on swimming, sharing her passion for teaching along the way.

"I actually made my mom be my student, and I had my smurf chalkboard and she was my student, and teachers would throw away extra worksheets and books," Wanke says. "I would steal them. I always wanted to be a teacher."

She says the Teacher of the Week award just adds to the love she already has for her students and her days in the classroom.

"When they send you little notes or say good things about what you're doing, it melts your heart," she says. "It makes you feel like, 'Oh I really am doing something good here."

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