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Teacher focuses on respect in class

January 15, 2006|By KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

For one Bester Elementary School fifth-grader, the most important test of the week might have come at recess.

That's when he walked from a fight, teacher Tiffany Tresler said.

"It is the kids in this class who encouraged him," Tresler said after school Wednesday. "They told him, 'Walk away, walk away,'"

Students have embraced the notion that their learning environment is a sanctuary, where they are responsible for both their actions and the way their responses to others influence the behavior of their classmates, Tresler said.

A sign in Tresler's room spells out one of her philosophies - "Because I respect you, I expect much of you."

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"I'm not here to be loved," Tresler said, "I'm here to make sure they learn, but I think if you do your job well, and build a relationship with each kid, they will love you."

The students all celebrated their classmate's decision to avoid a fight, Tresler said.

"That's why I come in every day, just those moments," she said.

At 24, Tresler was a rookie teacher during the first year of Eastern Elementary School's restructuring campaign. Today, as the most experienced - and youngest - of four fifth-grade teachers at Bester, she is a grade-level leader.

A "big school nerd," Tresler was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She started as a pre-medicine major, but quickly realized she would prefer to stay in the classroom.

"When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher, but then for the longest time, I wanted to be a doctor. But, then, I realized it wasn't me that wanted to be a doctor, it was certain people in my family that wanted me to be a doctor," Tresler said.

Tresler, a graduate of Shippensburg (Pa.) University who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., with her husband and son, leads a team of three other teachers, all of whom came to Bester as part of the school's efforts to improve academic performance.

After a shaky start, in which one boy visited Principal Kathy Stiles within the first hours of the first day of school, Tresler said Wednesday she believes students are making gains, both academically and socially. If anyone is surprised by the turnaround, it's the students, Tresler said.

"I think some of them are shocked they really can do it," Tresler said as one of her students ran errands for her after school.

The girl volunteered to put up a billboard of the students' latest writing assignments and tore down a display of math work.

After two years at Eastern, which, like Bester, was restructured as part of the process of raising disappointing scores, Tresler said she is happy to work in a school where she can see improvement every day.

"When you teach at a place where you see that you are making a difference, it makes your job so worthwhile," she said.

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