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.
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.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.