Respect goes both ways
Teacher of the Month says students earn what they yearn for
By Valerie Kiger
Pursuing a Ph.D in the subject she loved — biology — Anna Lovrien discovered something else she loved: Teaching.
"I was originally planning to teach at the college level ... but I realized I was not so interested in research as in teaching. I loved the whole process of it and helping others to learn."
Lovrien, 38, Post-Bulletin Newspaper in Education Teacher of the Month for February, also enjoyed the connection to the broad field of biology rather than focusing, as a researcher and college professor, on one specific area.
Lovrien teaches 10th through 12th grades at St. Charles Public Schools.
In the small school system (there are 500 students in grades 7-12), Lovrien teaches every student in at least one class.
"I get to know the students and figure out who they are. I can respect them and respond to them. Teaching is not just about the subject ... I try to take the kid who comes in and says, ‘I don’t really know about science,’ and turn them into someone who says, ‘I love science!’" she said.
She added that boys and girls seem equally interested in the subject. "Usually, I have a few more girls in anatomy and physiology at the senior levels."
Many of those students are interested in the health-care field, she noted.
Lovrien sets high standards in her classroom because that better prepares them for life after high school.
"I think that actually helps them, because then they will know what the world actually expects of them. I feel if kids are really challenged, and then they succeed, it really gives kids a feeling of being able to do things," she explained.
She said with daily feedback from students that she’s a tough teacher, she was particularly gratified to receive nominations from students and colleagues or the Teacher of the Month award.
"She has this mysterious way of taking any class, regardless of the material or difficulty, and miraculously transforming it to a course that is both comprehensive and enjoyable," wrote one student.
It’s not always easy to motivate students to achieve. When Lovrien started teaching at St. Charles eight years ago, she faced a class of almost exclusively boys, students with a reputation for resisting learning.
"I remember going to the principal many times, telling him I wasn’t sure how to discipline the students or get them to succeed. He said, ‘You have a respect for them. Set high standards and they’ll achieve for you.’" She did see an improvement by the end of the class, which encouraged her to believe she could succeed as a high school teacher.
She truly enjoys teaching 15- to 18-year olds, she added.
"They have that combination of youth and enthusiasm, but also maturity and intelligence," she said. "They are yearning for responsibility and yearning to be grown up and mature, and they’re yearning for respect — so if you give it to them, they will earn it."