Janna Bjork is in her first year of teaching in Perry, but she isn’t a novice.
“I’ve taught in a couple of other districts, and this is my eighth year of teaching,” she says. “So far, I really like teaching in Perry.”
In her previous districts, she taught third grade, kindergarten and second grade. But, Bjork says, she was looking for something more.
“I have my endorsement in teaching ELL, English Language Learners, and am certified to specifically work with those students,” she says. “I’ve worked with these students in the past, and I really like to be able to find ways to help them become successful.”
She knew that Perry had a lot of students who were learning English as a second language. In fact, about 50 percent of the student body is now made up of youth whose first languages are not English.
“I noticed Perry had some openings, so I applied,” she says.
Her interest in helping students learn English goes back to elementary school.
“My school had several students who came new to school and did not speak any English,” she says. “I was a peer helper. Teachers asked me to work with the students to try to help them. I would do my work, and then I would go over and help fellow students who did not speak English. I really enjoyed that.”
Bjork has 22 students in her third grade class.
“The fun thing about teaching third graders is that I’m able to start them on some of the independent things, to help with their learning,” she says. “At this age, for example, they can bring a reading notebook with them, and I can listen to them reading a book, then tell them what I’ve seen and heard and record it in their reading notebook.”
They can take that information and work on reading on their own, independently, Bjork says.
She likes to begin teaching by understanding what they are struggling to do, and then take their education forward from that point.
“I also try to make their learning relevant to them, so they can see a purpose to what we want them to learn,” she says. “It will help them as a reader, not just at school, but in other situations as well. The same goes for writing, math and science, not only that we want them to learn it, but how they can use it.”
Bjork is working on her master’s degree at Drake University with an emphasis on literacy education. She hopes to complete the degree in 2014.