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  • Kelly Zunkiewicz

     Kelly Z 

    Class of 2007

    Major: Integrated Mathematics Education

    Profession: Math Teacher, Lennard High School

    Location: Ruskin, Florida

    Recipient, 2014 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice 


    Why did you become a teacher? 

    My mother was my true inspiration. She taught elementary students for 35 years. I witnessed firsthand the impact that incredible teaching can have on students, and realized that there was no reason for students to hate math. 

    As a teacher, I have the ability to change how students think and feel about math, which plays an integral role of their lives.

    Why do you love being a teacher? 

    Working with young adults is amazing. As a teacher, I am able to inspire, motivate and open the minds of those around me. I can make learning fun and interesting.

    I can also show my students that while struggling is part of the learning process, hard work and determination can help them come out ahead.

    It is such an amazing feeling to see a student deeply understand a concept to the point where they begin teaching those around them.

    What was your first reaction when you found out you had been awarded the Fishman Prize? 

    I was thrilled! Since applying for the prize in December, I have been saying to myself, my family, and students “I’m going to win!” over and over. I knew I could do it, but I had to stay positive.

    I will never forget the moment the door to my classroom opened up and everyone poured in on the day I received the award. 

    Teaching is full of emotion and I was overwhelmed in that moment. My parents even flew down from Ohio for the surprise. I have not stopped smiling since.

    Why is receiving this award such an honor? 

    The reward in teaching is not the paychecks or the summers off; it is working with such wonderful young men and women and seeing their progress over the years. 

    My students are phenomenal and are making connections with the material and pushing one another to new heights every day. Their eyes have been opened to the infinite possibilities that the future can hold if they work hard and work together.

    The Fishman Prize is honoring my students and what we have been able to achieve together.

    How did your ODU education help prepare you for your teaching career? 

    Ohio Dominican exposed me to many different high school settings. I was able to experience private, public, high-poverty, affluent, and rural schools. All of the observations and student teaching experiences were wonderful. It is important to be exposed to various environments so you can choose the right school.

    I have been very fortunate to work at a school where I truly feel I belong. My students and the community are why I love going to work every day.

    Are there any particular moments during your time at ODU you look back on and realize they had a substantial impact on your college education/career? 

    I have many fond memories of my time at ODU, especially while playing basketball and tennis. But I also met two invaluable friends - Tyler Winner and John Edmonds. They are educators and teach in the Columbus area. 

    Each of us had a different learning style and we were able to complement one another to get through the tough times in our challenging mathematics courses. 

    These experiences taught me so much about the importance of teamwork in the classroom and the positive impact that proper grouping can have on students.

    What advice do you have for ODU students who want to become teachers? 

    Teaching is not a job; it is a career that takes passion, careful planning, determination to constantly improve your skills, and a love for your students. 

    Remember to always think about your students. What are they experiencing? What are they thinking and seeing from you on a daily basis? Videotape yourself to see and hear what they do. 

    We, as teachers, are here to serve our students. This profession cannot only be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. You need to be ready to put in many hours of work to become the best teacher you can because all students deserve to have amazing teachers! 

    You will not regret becoming a teacher if you are prepared and allow your students to amaze you.

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