Lana Brozik has 7,000 books in her classroom. There's fantasy and science fiction that her students read the most, but also mysteries, literary fiction and nonfiction options in her own personal lending library.
A few books are loose on her desk. They can't be shelved until they are repaired, a chore she doesn't mind because the ripped cover means a student took the book home and read it.
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Curriculum vitae: Top Teacher Lana BrozikLana Brozik
Occupation: Eighth-Grade Language Arts teacher, Eastview Middle School
Education: Wauwatosa East High School, Wauwatosa, Wis.; bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.; master's degree in Educational Technology, National Louis University, Wheeling; Reading Certification, Northern Illinois University/Aurora University; Library Media Certification, University of Phoenix/University of Wisconsin, Stout; National Board Certification.
Activities: Teacher Mentor Program, Oversight Committee; Mentor Teacher; National Board Candidate Support Provider; School Improvement Team member; AVID Site Team member; District Language Arts Leadership Team; District Grading Committee; District Common Core Implementation Committee-Technology; District Transformational Task Force Committee-Middle School; Co-Sponsor Eastview Student Council; webmaster, Eastview Middle School website.
Past Jobs: Swimming Instructor/Lifeguard, Wauwatosa, Wis.; fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in Madison, Wis.; education specialist, Xerox Corporation, Milwaukee; Substitute Teacher/Teaching Assistant, Elgin Area School District U-46; Part-time employee at Bartlett Public Library; Teacher, Channing Elementary School, Elgin.
Tips from a great teacher
Lana Brozik's tools for good teaching
Promote literacy in your school every chance you can.
There is nothing that is more important to your students' success in the future. It is needed for every subject in school and every career in the workplace. Have your students keep a "Someday List" of books to read in a section of their writer's notebook, their assignment notebook, or someplace where it can be regularly updated and reviewed. Do frequent book talks and book passes in class, have them complete book reviews on library blogs or bulletin boards, or create book trailers -- whatever it takes to get book recommendations in front of them. Have them add books to their lists and cross them off as they read them, maintaining a steady list of at least 20 possibilities at all times. Take these lists with them for library visits so there will always be something specific that they can be looking for, instead of milling around aimlessly. Create a laminated "What I'm Reading" (book and author) sign for every staff member in your school, and ask them to fill it out, post it in the hall outside their room and update it throughout the year.
Don't be afraid to admit to your students that you do not know the answer to a question or don't know how to use/fix some piece of technology that has gone rogue.
This situation can turn into the perfect "teachable moment." Empower them to find out the answer. Discuss ways that you could accomplish the task and ask for a volunteer to actually follow up for you. As to technology, face it -- our students now are the video generation and the first true digital natives. They like their information in short sound bites and video, technology and music rule their lives. Take advantage of their expertise. Let them show you how something works -- it will humanize you and make them feel proud about doing it.
Have a sense of humor.
There has been much research that has demonstrated the power of laughter in our lives and the positive affect it has on our body. Laughter is contagious and reduces stress and anxiety. A good sense of humor can keep the relationship between you and your students strong. It will make your class more enjoyable and keep them attentive and engaged. You don't have to be a stand-up comedian -- you can show them some funny and relatable clips from TV shows like Jerry Seinfeld or "I love Lucy" to start off the class, read a humorous Dave Barry article or display a witty educational cartoon on the screen as they walk in your room. Try putting a humorous quote on the board in the same spot every day. Humor can be an effective classroom management tool.
Talking about ... Lana Brozik
"Not only is she great with the kids that she teaches, but she's on those committees to make sure there are positive changes that are being made that affect kids districtwide." -- Donald Donner, principal, Eastview Middle School on Brozik's extracurricular involvement
"For her to have the ability to be the experienced master teacher that she is but also understand the needs of people coming into the profession and provide the support for them is pretty special." -- Doreen Roberts, Teacher Leader, U-46 Teacher Effectiveness Initiatives department on Brozik's mentoring
"It's so student-centered. The ideas and conversations are driven by the students. It makes their learning intrinsic and it's something they own rather than something that happens to them." -- Stacey Bartkowski, parent on Brozik's classroom
"She makes things fun. She doesn't just teach us, she does it in a fun way."
-- eighth-grader Elisabeth Gonzalez, on Brozik's teaching style
Brozik, a Wisconsin native, teaches eighth grade English at Eastview Middle School in Bartlett, where she has worked since 1996. But her classroom duties are just the beginning of what she does.
She's a mentor for new teachers, co-sponsors the student council, serves as the online webmaster, represents Eastview on Elgin Area Unit District U-46's school improvement team and works as a member of the AVID, a college-readiness program.
At the district level, she is a member of the oversight committee for the teacher mentor program, the language arts leadership team, the grading committee, the transformation task force committee for middle school and the common core implementation committee for technology.
When asked why she is so involved -- a question Brozik gets with regularity -- her answer involves her passion for honing her own skills. Of course her participation helps others, and Brozik does feel a sense of paying it forward for the good of her profession. But she can't help but point out that the benefits are mutual. She gets professional development through participating in all the committees, seeing presentations firsthand and reporting back to other teachers.
"I like being in on the ground floor of new changes so I know what it's all about," Brozik said. "I want to keep learning."
The seasoned educator also has been helping to mentor new teachers in the district since the late 1990s and she added a support role for national board certified teacher candidates to her list of activities once she passed the rigorous certification process in 2005.
Her support and guidance helps teachers, which in turn helps their students. The ripple effect is fulfilling on its own, but Brozik said the relationship between her and the young teachers also brings her a steady stream of new strategies from people fresh out of college. Brozik, who got her master's degree in educational technology is always looking for the next generation of ideas. And that thirst for new techniques has not escaped the eye of Eastview Principal Donald Donner.
"She's always looking to talk to the new teachers in the building to find out if they're learning something she didn't know," Donner said. "She continues to get better every year."
Donner hopes to keep Brozik involved in the school after she retires at the end of this academic year. He said losing her will be like losing two teachers.
In the classroom, Brozik favors group work and student-centered activities. Every piece of her lesson plans is geared toward student achievement -- a reflection of her growth during the national board certification process. Since becoming a national board certified teacher, Brozik has scrapped projects she enjoyed and knows students liked if they don't meet her high standards of moving students ever forward in their academic growth.
"I don't do anything now without thinking about 'how can I connect this?' and 'how am I going to know if they learned?' and 'how does this learning affect their achievement?'" Brozik said. "It's a whole new way of looking at what I plan to do on a daily basis."
In the end, her kids love her class.
Thirteen-year-old Elisabeth Gonzalez of Carol Stream says Brozik is a teacher kids can trust and talk to about more than just school. She has fun in Brozik's classroom.
Natalie Payne, of Hanover Park, said Brozik always makes sure to explain things completely.
"She goes into detail so we know what we're doing all the time," Natalie said.
And Brozik's reputation spreads beyond her students, where her quick responses to concerned parents and her attention to the needs, interests and talents of each child win over entire families.
Stacey Bartkowski's daughter Cami took English with Brozik last year. Besides appreciating her availability to parents, Bartkowski got a look at Brozik from a professional standpoint during a classroom observation through the Teacher Effectiveness Initiatives department at U-46, where Bartkowski works.
"She meets the students where they are instead of expecting them all to be in the same place," Bartkowski said. "She just has a way with kids and students and knowing them individually rather than as a whole group."
Brozik runs a student-centered classroom. Instead of making every child read the same book at the same time for class discussion, she teaches writing strategies and asks students to pull out a book they are reading to find examples in their own texts. She makes sure students know why they're learning what they are and why it's going to be relevant to their lives. And as many of her students say, it ends up being fun -- like the assignment tying in Super Bowl commercials to a lesson about marketing techniques.
"Every student," Bartkowski said, "should be blessed with a Lana Brozik in their school career."