“Whoever is happy, will make others happy too.”
The Teacher’s Academy is honored to introduce our April Teacher Feature, Mrs. Lisa Mancini!
Fostering a love for reading at the middle school level can be a quite challenge. Kids spend so much time immersed in the fast-paced world of technology that they often don’t have the patience required to appreciate classic literature. We met one teacher who is able to use her students’ interest in technology to keep them motivated, curious, and persistent in the challenges that come with developing strong reading skills. Simply put, she nurtures a good old-fashioned, love for reading.
The beauty of Mrs. Mancini’s teaching is that she is able to develop her students’ comprehension skills in such a subtle way that they become captivated before even beginning the book.
On the day I met Mrs. Mancini, she was introducing, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to her lively 7th grade students. Before they were able to open the book, Mrs. Mancini used the website http://annefrank.org to allow her students to experience a virtual tour of the secret annex where Anne and her family hid for 3 years.
The realization of war and the occupation of the Nazi army in Holland were sub-topics that her students quickly picked up on. They asked questions about Anne’s older sister who was called to report to one of the camps in Germany. They wondered about how Anne’s friends must have felt when she just disappeared, unable to say goodbye. They considered the risks taken by her father’s employees to keep the whole family hidden. In short, they were able to make the deep connections to the people and events in the book that are vital to reading comprehension. Did you forget we were in English class? I did!
Performing Arts and Reading…
Next step, reading! Not reading from a textbook or even the diary, but from a scripted play. Mrs. Mancini skillfully incorporates the performing arts to allow her students to further immerse themselves in the story. The students have already chosen which characters they will portray. They sit together, practicing their lines, while Mrs. Mancini helps to further define the characters.
“I never thought I’d see the day where Mr. Frank goes into hiding.” She states to her students. “What does that sentence tell you about Mr. Frank?”
The students discuss what they know of Mr. Frank’s character thus far and devise several responses:
“He’s a good person.”
“He’s trying to protect his family or else he wouldn’t have to go into hiding.”
Mrs. Mancini offers a little more guidance. “What kind of people go into hiding?”
The enthusiasm in the room is palpable as students jump to chime in.
“Bad people, people who are wanted by the government.”
“Mr. Frank is not a bad person. That’s why no one can believe he has to go into hiding.”
“Exactly.” Mrs. Mancini smiles and leads her students into a discussion of the other 7 characters and some background information to help set the scene.
The kids have lots of questions.
“Anne was afraid to get anyone else in trouble. She knew if they were caught and the names of the people who shared the annex with her were in her diary, the Nazis would punish them too.”
Mrs. Mancini continues to explain why Mrs. van Pels has on 7 layers of clothing and a fur coat in July and why Peter might be happy to burn his Star of David, but Anne can’t seem to let hers go. She points out how Mr. Frank, the eternal optimist, continuously tries to keep everyone’s moods elevated, even in the darkest of times.
Her students are comfortable with their characters and the play begins…
Foster A Love of Reading
Mrs. Mancini gives stage directions and supports the integrity of the play by encouraging her students to read their parts like true actors…
“Come on Zac! This is the perfect role for you! How would you act if your mom was embarrassing you?”
With Mrs. Mancini’s encouragement, Zac (reading the role of Peter) over-emphasizes the total embarrassment of having such a doting mother, “Pleeease Mother!” he says, with the dramatics of a seasoned professional. The classroom erupts with laughter until the student playing Anne chimes in with her eloquent voice, evoking the energetic spirit of the real Anne Frank.
Mrs. Mancini’s students continue to have fun reading their parts. Mr. Frank, Margot, Mrs. Frank, Mr. and Mrs. van Pels, Peter, Mr. Pfeffer and of course, Anne, enjoy experimenting with voices and emotions, while the rest of the class encourages the actors to “stay in character.”
At the conclusion of the play, the students are directed to write about the characters. Using laptops, they log into www.goformative.com. Mrs. Mancini hands out slips of paper with the names of two characters the students can describe.
Incorporating writing immediately after interactive visuals and a dramatic reading makes her students better equipped to respond. They get to work right away, with very little discussion. Soon the classroom is filled with the clicking sounds of confident writers. Students are able to post their responses onto the common page where Mrs. Mancini can quickly read or share the comments.
At the end of class, students gather to sign up for characters to portray during tomorrow’s lesson. “I’m going to read the role of Mr. Frank! I can’t wait until tomorrow!” Chirps one enthusiastic student.
Kindness and Giving… Keystones of a Successful Teacher
“My favorite thing about teaching is having the chance to play a small part in so many lives. Knowing that I have had a role in the education of so many young lives is very powerful. I also love the opportunity to start again each fall; it gives me the opportunity to improve my craft and set new goals for myself.”
Even with a story as tragic as that of Anne Frank’s, Mrs. Mancini is able to find elements of life and joy that she then brings to her students.
Not only does this create strong readers, but it also develops compassion and interest in historical events that students may not have been able to connect to previously. And, perhaps even more importantly, it demonstrates Mrs. Mancini’s ability to teach her students that to avoid hatred we must embrace kindness.
Mrs. Mancini performs her own acts of kindness in many different ways. Along with her entire school community, she supports the Kelly Ann Dolan fund, which raises money for families of sick children. She organizes the Lee National Denim Day at her school, to raise money for breast cancer research. She is one of the 7th grade team leaders, as well as backstage support during school plays. She also serves as the CB Cares Boomerang Award Coordinator. (A district-wide initiative to honor students for small acts of kindness.)
“I love helping students earn recognition for the great things they do each and every day.”
As a graduate of Bloomsburg University and a daughter of two teachers, Mrs. Mancini never dreamed of doing anything but becoming a teacher herself. She was inspired to earn an additional certification in German by a very special, energetic 13 year-old girl, who also had a great love of writing.
“I LOVE reading. My love of reading turned into a love of writing. I see the two going hand-in-hand. Good writers need to be good readers and vice-versa!”
Mrs. Mancini works with LearnZillion and the Louisiana Department of Education, writing curriculum guidebooks for teachers. She is also a Graphite Certified Educator, which gives her access to some really cool technology. On first impression, she presents herself as quiet and modest, but don’t let that fool you! This 21st Century teacher loves to stay active! She is a competitive triathlete and a mixed martial artist. She has been fortunate to have support from some awesome people in her life in order to accomplish all of these amazing things. Her husband and two children join her for adventures whenever they can. Each summer, the four of them escape to North Wildwood with her in-laws so they can be outside and hang with family and friends.
As an energetic teacher who loves to read and devotes herself to making this world a better place, Mrs. Mancini has some pretty high hopes for her own students…
“I want them to find something they love and go after it. I want them to know that great things are possible with hard work. I want them to know that they might fall down along the way, but there will always be a way to get back up and keep going.”
Thank you so much, Mrs. Mancini! Anne could not have said it better herself.
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