Teacher of the Week: Lisa Crawford, pre-kindergarten, St. Matthew's School, Champaign

May 9—Email nominations to Anthony Zilis at

Sixteen years ago, Lisa Crawford found her way back to where her educational journey began. At the time, she was a 10-year teaching veteran at Dr. Howard and Bottenfield elementary schools, but she felt the pull back to the place where both she and her children went to school, St. Matthew School.

As both a pre-school and kindergarten teacher during her time at her former school, she's made an impression on children with her engaging style.

I find my work important because ... Pre-K and kindergarten are important, as these early education years will lay the foundation for the rest of their educational career! They are discovering what school is all about while still learning and understanding about themselves. For many of these students, my classroom is their first school experience and their first time away from their families for an extended time. I want my students to know they are loved and that our classroom is a fun, safe place for them to learn, to make friends and to grow!

I became a teacher because ... I became a teacher because I LOVE kids. Yep, they can be exhausting, and 4- and 5-year-olds can require a lot of patience, but there is nothing better than to see their faces light up when they make the most amazing discoveries or learn to do something for the first time or truly believe in their heart that they are the best and can do anything when they try! A pre-K hug or smile can make even the most challenging days better!

My favorite or most unique lesson that I teach is ... My favorite lessons are those that are likely a little messy and fun. We love testing out different science experiments like our exploding Jack-o'-lantern. All of our centers are hands-on and open-ended in that the kiddos can decide what direction they want to take their activity. If we get a little messy along the way, it's OK, and that probably means we learned something!

My most fulfilling moments on the job are when ... One of the most fulfilling moments on the job would be when I see my students help one another without me interjecting. This could be a hug because someone was sad or helping someone clean up a mess, or noticing that a friend was by themselves and another student makes sure they are included. My number one rule from the first day of school is to be kind. If my littles leave my classroom remembering this, I feel like I have made a difference.

I keep students engaged by ... In pre-K, we have to change things up quite often to keep them engaged. Most of our daily activities involve a lot of movement to keep us going! In our classroom, students have several centers that they work in, and these are changed out every couple of weeks to keep things new and fun. They are always so excited to come into the classroom and see their new learning centers. For example, one week, you may see them climbing into a rocket ship and manning mission control at our dramatic play area, and a couple of weeks later, we have traveled back millions of years to the age of the dinosaurs! It takes a lot of creativity and organization but just one "Mrs. Crawford, this is the best day ever" makes it all worth it!

Something else I'm passionate about is ... If I am not at school, I am spending time with my family or cheering on our ILLINI! My son is a pitcher for the U of I club baseball team, so our weekends are often spent traveling and cheering for them! We recently celebrated my daughter's UIC graduation from their nursing program! We have been blessed to have both of our kids close to home attending the U of I! I-L-L!

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was ... It seems only suitable that my favorite teacher was my kindergarten teacher, Jean Breeze, at Westview Elementary School. How lucky was I to have an amazing teacher like Jean and to then a few years later have her be my mentor and colleague as I became a kindergarten teacher, too! She sure put the teaching bug in me and left such an incredible impression on me, I never considered any other career!

If I weren't a teacher, I would be ... If I weren't a teacher I would still be working in a career that involved children. I have to say that teaching has always just been it! I love the kids, love their families and love feeling like I hopefully made a difference in a child's life.