Zellmer motivates 1st grade students with choices

First grade teacher, Brittany Zellmer of Westwood Elementary, leads a classroom activity, March 23, 2016. (WLUK/Michelle Melby)

Brittany Zellmer is a West De Pere School District first grade teacher who has a knack for making material interesting and individual to each child. In her classroom, the students get a lot of choices.

"I think that when students can choose what they want to do, I think that it is really powerful for them. And they're motivated to learn and to participate. They're engaged in what they're doing," said Zellmer, a Golden Apple Award recipient.

That was certainly true on this day, when a Westwood Elementary School classroom is alive with activity.

The students are in pairs, taking turns, reading books of their choice. Then, they use a classroom iPad and record the character dialogue.

Zellmer says her lessons help the students get ready to be in charge of themselves.

"I have high expectations for the students. But I think that having those high expectations really helps them to believe in themselves. And they can do it," said Zellmer.

When I asked Zellmer's students to describe their teacher, they gave me some pretty good answers.

"It's pretty fun and it's not like any other classroom. It's like a special classroom for the best kids," said student Zane Heimerl.

"I think she likes being with us," said student Leah Muellenbach. "Because she's a teacher and she's thankful for all of us."

"She helped us in blends, bonus letters, and trick words," said Emma Marquis, a student.

"When you're behind, or stuck in something, all we got to do is raise our hands, and she comes to us," said Ethan Ozarowicz, a student.

"I care about how they learn, and how they learn best. But I also care about the person that they are and the person they'll become," said Zellmer.

Zellmer says more than anything, she wants to give her students a love of learning.

She's a Golden Apple instructor, who knows how to connect with her kids.

"I tell them we have two rules in our class: to work hard, and to be nice. And I think that if they can learn those two things, they're going to go far," said Zellmer.

FOX 11's Tom Milbourn and Michelle Melby kicked off the nomination period for the 23rd annual Golden Apple Awards in November.

The Teachers of Distinction were announced in February and the final list of Golden Apple recipients was announced in March.

This year's Golden Apple Awards ceremony is set for April 20. Click here to register to attend the awards program.

The Golden Apple Awards are a program of the Greater Green Bay Chamber, with support from major sponsors.

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