Leonetta begins her day teaching at a local school and ends it at the Library.
Teaching is a Calling
Leonetta welcomes her students at Kelly branch with a warm “hello,” an energetic high-five, and a bright smile. “Children just spent eight hours in the classroom. Now, they need to do their homework here at the Library. I understand they’re exhausted and restless. So, I try to re-energize students when we start our sessions,” she shares.
A full-time third-grade educator by day and a Teacher in the Library during the afternoon, education is Leonetta’s calling. “I have always wanted to teach children for as long as I can remember. Now, I get to do what I love in two different settings. It’s incredibly fulfilling,” she explains.
Learning is a Personal and Emotional Process
“What homework do you want to work on today?” Leonetta asks a third-grade boy. Pulling out his math worksheet, they read the assignment together. “Did you learn this in school today?” Leonetta asks again. Nodding, he replies shyly. “Yes, but I didn’t understand it very well.” Smiling, Leonetta patiently explains and demonstrates the multiplication process. She constantly checks if her student understands the steps and repeats them if necessary.
“Now, let’s do it together,” Leonetta calmly encourages him. They work halfway through the worksheet. “See, you’re doing so well! Why don’t you try finishing up the rest of the homework? I’ll check it after you’re done. But you can come to me if you have questions, okay?” Leonetta reassures. The boy beams, “I will!” and turns around to work vigorously on his assignment.
With encouragement, patience, and one-on-one time, Leonetta has transformed multiplication anxiety into math confidence.
Seeing three to eight students a day, Leonetta helps third graders up to high-schoolers with math and reading, making sure she spends one-on-one sessions with everyone.
“Learning is a personal and emotional process. One invaluable benefit of the Teacher in the Library is the focused attention every child receives. Spending 15-20 minutes with students creates meaningful connections and provides a more compassionate learning atmosphere,” Leonetta reflects.
We Are a Village
Leonetta does not only spend valuable time with each student; she also checks in with parents. “I highly encourage parents, grandparents, and caregivers to stay during sessions so they can help their children at home,” she shares. Parents and guardians are welcome to ask questions and observe the lessons so they can better guide students on their own.
Looking around, I see a mom and a child practicing addition. In the corner, a grandmother encourages her grandson to finish the worksheet. Other times, parents are also learning along with their children.
“I have a regular student I help with reading. The girl’s mother is from Mexico and speaks little English. So, they practice reading a book together. It’s heartwarming to know that the impact of our work extends to family learning.”
Students also help each other. “The older children volunteer to teach and review their younger peers’ work. Earlier today, a sixth-grade student came up to me and said, ‘Ms. Leonetta, can I show her how to add in columns?'” Leonetta recalls fondly.
“At first, I thought that it would be challenging to manage different students at different grade levels, but I see that the students become the teachers. We’ve built an emphatic and caring learning community here,” she continues proudly.
“What’s the most rewarding part of the job?” I ask. “Seeing students, especially those who need support the most, do better in school and become confident learners is the most amazing feeling,” she answers instantly.
“About a month ago, two of my students came to the Library and excitedly showed me their report card. They thanked me for helping them earn A’s and B’s. Their mom also sent me a personal note. It read, ‘Thank you for everything. The children didn’t think they were smart enough but look what you helped them achieve. They’re very proud of themselves.'”
Aside from being a Teacher in the Library, Leonetta is the program’s most staunch advocate. “It’s more than just homework help. It’s developing confidence among students, empowering caregivers to guide their children, and giving people and communities access, resources, and opportunities to succeed”, she says with conviction.
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