TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Emma Wendell prepares students for society’s expectations

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024

Emma Wendell teaches First Grade at Redwood Elementary School.

Wendell teaches collaboratively and incorporates Habit 4 “Think Win Win” in the way students approach problems in class as well as life outside of the classroom.

Wendell is a finalist in the Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year award. The Chamber will select and announce one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year at the Chamber Luncheon in February. The winner of each award will receive $1,000 from Ameristar Casino and the runner-up for each award will receive $500 from Mutual Credit Union.

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Wendell started teaching at Redwood Elementary in 2021.

When asked how she ensures her students are connected to the world around them, she said she ties in everyday circumstances in the learning environment.

“I tell them we have to be able to read to find things in the grocery store or follow directions to get from point A to point B. We discuss that math is used daily from baking to paying for items at the store. Once they see there is a purpose behind learning a skill, they are eager to participate in its learning.”

Wendell said she holds daily one-on-one conversations with her students about their Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) and life in general.

“I want to provide them with a sense of security and instill in them that I care about them as a person, not just a student.”

These discussions, she said, lead to growth in academics, trust in her as their teacher and confidence in themselves.

When asked what her most moving educational moment was she immediately spoke of a student who was struggling in her class due to a negative past school experience. He was acting out and showing bad behavior and his academics were a grade level behind.

She credits her daily conversations with him to establishing a rapport and building trust. His behavior improved and he grew a whole grade level in a semester.

“He showed me what a difference I could make in the life of a child, ” Wendell said.