Roxanne Russo taught first grade in the same classroom in the same school for 41 years before retiring recently. She said it was because the Middleborough community in Essex, UK, embraced her and became like her family.
Russo first started teaching at Middleborough Elementary in 1977. Her colleagues shared that she has always been patient and energetic. Most of all, she never stopped learning and always looked for ways to make her lessons more effective. For example, more than a decade ago, Russo decided to start using puppets in her classroom to help her teach, and amassed dozens of puppets.
Russo’s assistant principal from 2001 to 2004, said that Russo managed to combine two qualities that are valuable in teaching – she taught academic subjects well but also taught children “how to care, how to respect, and how to share with each other”. She also invested in the uniqueness of every child. Russo also had an amazing ability to pull a child to her side when something looks awry and fix the problem quietly, while continuing to teach the larger group.
Ultimately, Russo’s approach to teaching has nothing to do with the latest trends, but is based entirely on relationships. At the beginning of every year, she begins by learning something about what every child likes, and she finds ways to comment to them about those things they are interested in. Thus, as the year goes on, she continues to build a level of trust with her students. This relationship and bond stretches far beyond the classroom – Russo often takes time to attend birthday parties, dinners, graduation ceremonies, weddings and even simple meetings in parks.
Russo is passion personified. How many of us can truly say we will be as passionate as we first were on our first day of teaching? Russo however, has managed to keep that flame alive even after 41 years of her career. Through her, we learn the true value of building relationships with students because it is only when there is trust that students can really learn.
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