SOLON — Over more than two decades of teaching science classes, Francesca Kaiser saw many students who excelled at the hands-on experimental aspects of her class fall short when given a scientific article to read.
“In terms of how to read non-fiction to get the information they needed, and just comprehending the text — you could just see the various discrepancies,” Kaiser, 47, said. “Especially with kids who didn’t struggle with other aspects of science.”
Kaiser said she didn’t have enough tools to help some of her eighth-grade students build the foundational reading skills she knew they needed.
So she went to back to school, receiving a master’s degree in reading from Mount Mercy University in 2007, more than a decade after she received a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College in 1993.
Four years ago, Kaiser changed roles at Solon Middle School. She is a reading specialist, working with fifth- through eighth- grade students to improve their skills.
The Gazette is featuring Kaiser as part of an ongoing series spotlighting educators in the Corridor. To nominate someone to be featured, send an email to Molly Duffy, K-12 education reporter, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Name a few things you always have on your desk.
A: The standard water bottle, lip balm, and lotion of course. My favorites, though, are photos of my own children as well as former students who have given me their pictures. I also have a teacher’s prayer card given to me by the grandfather of a former student and a paperweight given to me by a student from my very first year of teaching.
Q: What are some of your favorite lessons to teach?
A: As a reading teacher, I like to see students get excited to read. At the middle school level, World War II and the Holocaust are high-interest topics students love to read about. It sparks great classroom discussion and also allows students the opportunity to reflect on world issues currently in our daily lives.
Q: What’s one of the funniest things a student has said to you?
A: I have had more than one student ask me what country I am from which always makes me laugh since I was born and raised in Des Moines. The name Francesca throws students for a loop.
Q: What’s one of the hardest conversations you’ve had at school?
A: My son passed away in 2006. Kids, especially middle school kids, truly care about others and their struggles. Explaining this situation to them and letting them know I was sad and hurting but was going to be OK was definitely one of my most difficult conversations as a teacher but also one of the most personally rewarding.
Q: What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
A: I have tremendous respect for nurses and individuals who work in the medical field. This was a career choice I never considered in my college years but fascinates me today. If I ever went back to school for a career change, nursing would be my choice.
Q: What’s something students probably don’t know about you?
A: I spend quite a bit of time on two wheels. In the summer time especially, I ride my bike as much as I can and try to get 200 or so miles in each week. It is great exercise and a wonderful way to explore new places.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a kid?
A: Miss Werner in fourth grade stands out. She picked great books to read aloud to our class, many of which I have shared with my students through the years.
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