Cooking class offers a recipe for learning

February 02, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County elementary schools. Next month: Greenbrier Elementary School.

Connie Giles makes cooking educational and fun, demonstrating there is more than one way to teach a class.

As part of an annual project, the students in Giles' fourth-grade class at Fountain Rock Elementary School work together to read instructions on how to make cookies, Giles said. Perhaps without realizing it, the students use learning and comprehension skills while making the cookies, she said.

The students then use math skills to measure proportions for making the cookies that later are eaten by the class, she said.

Giles' ability to use innovative ways to teach students is one of the reasons she is one of the school's best teachers, said Fountain Rock Principal Timothy Abe.


She also excels at teaching students who are at different learning levels, he said.

Giles, 52, of Williamsport, has been teaching fourth grade at Fountain Rock for seven years. She taught first grade at Smithsburg Elementary School for nine years before taking 14 years off to raise her three children, she said.

She is married to Roger Giles, the school system's director of funded and special programs.

When Giles was getting ready to resume teaching, she encountered her second-grade teacher and expressed concern about teaching students at different educational levels and trying to meet their individual needs, she said.

"Oh, just love them," the retired teacher, Mary Crampton, told her.

Giles has found loving and respecting the students helps her and them, she said.

"I love children. I love learning. And I love teaching. And I think that, hopefully, they will catch that excitement about learning," she said. "They give so much back to me. ... you get reinforcement all the time.

"It excites me when I see a light go on or I see that they have made a lot of progress to see where they could come ... to be more independent workers, and when they do that they are proud of themselves," she said.

She said she has five goals when working with students:

  • Meet them at their educational level.

  • Get them "excited about the wonder of learning and then try to go with their interests."

    For an annual oral report, students choose a pet or an animal they would like to have as a pet, she said.

    "I learn something new every year from their reports."

  • Get them to recognize their strengths, then use that knowledge to build their confidence.

  • Find appropriately challenging work for each student, she said.

  • Get them to do their best. The harder they work, the more she can help them learn, she said.

And if the students don't give their best efforts?

"Then it is harder," she said.

When that happens, she talks to a student's parents and tries to find other ways to motivate the student to try harder.

Giles has no plans to seek other positions, saying she really likes working with fourth-graders.

"The students are at a point where they are learning to become more independent workers," she said.

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