The child closes her eyes and turns her head. Her little hand reaches down into the cup, and she pulls out a painted tongue depressor with a word written on it. She has to read the word out loud, and if she does so correctly, she gets to keep it. She and her fellow classmates are sitting at a table and playing a game with Mrs. Heidelberg. Some of the children have already collected enough words that they have set them neatly in rows. All of the children are hoping that the next word they pull is not “BAM!” Bam means they have to lose all of their words. It happens more than you would think, and all the children let out a collective moan when anyone draws “BAM!” from the cup.
Mrs. Heidelberg smiles and whispers, “Sometimes I take out a bam or two when it seems they are getting them all the time.”
After thirteen years of co-teaching in classrooms at Quitman High School, Quitman Upper Elementary, and Quitman Lower Elementary, Heidelberg seems relaxed and comfortable in a classroom full of first graders at QLE. She is, and she explains,
“I have a passion and love for children. You have to have a love for kids in order to come into this field. Every child who comes through that door is not an angel everyday, but we still have to prepare them for the future. You have to be patient, have a caring heart, and an open mind. Also, you have to love being hugged, because you get plenty of those everyday.”
Thanks to the work that Mrs. Heidelberg is doing in one corner of the classroom, Mrs. Smith can review skills with a small group of children in another part of the room. Small groups of children rotating through tasks allow both Smith and Heidelberg to more fully understand the individual needs of their students. Smith explains,
“I couldn’t do it without her. She was the assistant when I was student teaching. So, having her here made the transition to teaching so much easier. We have twenty-one students in our classroom, and while I am up at the board teaching them, Mrs. Heidelberg is walking around the room making sure they are getting it. In smaller groups she is emphasizing what I am teaching and practicing the skills.”
Teaching assistants, or co-teachers, are an integral part of education at Quitman Lower Elementary. The relationships they form with the classroom teachers can be life long. Second grade teacher Anna Griffin worked with Heidelberg for four years, and she still gushes over the relationship they had in the classroom.
“She’s a remarkable assistant and a remarkable person. I admire her in many ways. We worked so well together. It’s like we were in sync, and the day just flowed. She loved the kids and treated every one of them the same. The kids, of course, responded to that, and they loved her back. She wasn’t only focused on them academically. She also made them aware of their character and their attitude. She cared about the job, and it showed.”