Metro Parent Top Teacher Awards 2013
It's our annual tribute to five outstanding educators in metro Detroit. See how they bring Spanish, math, the library, compassion and kindergarten to life.
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Joan Freedman, head librarian and K-4 language arts coordinator, Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills
Last year, words went on sale at the library at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills.
Students from Joan Freedman's accelerated language arts class used scenes from The Phantom Tollbooth, including a word fair, as the inspiration. "My daughter did magical words from Harry Potter," says parent Kari Alterman. "All the booths were so creative and they were based on the students' interests." It exemplifies what sets Freedman apart as an educator, she adds. "I'm always impressed with her ability to figure out what makes each kid tick, how to motivate them and how to push them to challenge themselves."
Recalling the experience, Freedman says, "The kids planned it and I acted as a facilitator. I love it when the kids are the drivers – the decision makers." That idea of taking charge of your own learning is something Freedman tries to instill in her students. Their skills for planning and executing their own projects also came in handy when putting together something special for Freedman. The kids threw her a surprise birthday party!
This year, Freedman's influence has moved beyond the classroom. As the director of the library and the language arts/social studies curriculum coordinator for grades K-4 at Hillel, she meets with teachers on developing literacy appreciation, computer technology and other programs to augment class learning.
But she still makes time to help students in the library find books that suit their interests – and to do story time. For example, after reading more about Jim Henson with the kids, Freedman had them make their own puppets and then perform shows.
"It's our job as educators – and I think as parents, also – to help kids figure out their own love of learning, whatever it is, whether it's in sports, reading, math," Freedman says. "Every child has a gift, and it's our job to help them discover their gift. I feel honored to come in to work every day and to help make that happen."