On the first day of school, Cheryl Ondra already has her third-graders reaching for a higher level. To reward her students, she invites them to “clip up” and move clothespins with their names on them from one tier to the next on a big wall chart. By 10 a.m., most had moved from “ready to learn,” past “showing pride,” and landed on “role model.” All were closing in on “outstanding,” which the 7- and 8-year-olds would surely need a stool to achieve.
Ondra has been an elementary school teacher in Mountain View for 22 years, and has worked at William Tyson Elementary School since it opened, she said. If she hadn’t made a deep connection yet with her 15 kids on day one, she at least had their attention. They quietly participated in handwriting exercises, unwrapped their new math books, and walked the halls with their hands at their sides during at tour for the school of 385 students.
During her midday break Wednesday, she talked about the unique education challenges for a teacher in one of Alaska’s most diverse neighborhoods, and what motivates her year after year.