ELEMENTARY TEACHER FOCUSES ON THE WHOLE STUDENT
For Emily Trosen, school is more than an environment where students learn to read and write.
Yes, they do that, too, but kids also learn about empathy and kindness in Trosen’s third grade classroom.
“I would say my focus, way, way, way, way, way more than the academics, which of course I’m teaching,” Trosen said, “is how to have empathy for your classmates, how to advocate for yourself, how to be kind, how to be truthful, and how to stand up for the right thing. And, also, how to cheer on the success of other people.”
Trosen has been teaching for six years and has spent the last two at Molalla Elementary. She didn’t initially go to school to become a teacher but rather as a business major. However, after taking a few education courses, she fell in love with it.
“I do not feel passionately about any specific subject,” she said, “but the kids and the relationships with them, and getting to just spend time with them and be a part of their lives, that’s the part for me that I love.”
In what has been her most challenging year as a teacher, between constant quarantines and ever-changing guidelines, Trosen said she is thankful for the time she does get to spend with her kids. Trosen has built strong relationships with her families by having open and regular communication.
Even with the challenges, Trosen said she has an amazing group of parents and students this year.
“It’s been really difficult,” Trosen said, “but I feel really supported by parents, and also by my administrator, Mike.”
And parents feel supported by Trosen. “She’s really easy to talk to,” said Sarah Peterson, whose daughter is in Trosen’s class. “She is open to any questions I have, even if I feel like I’m being kind of pushy or overbearing, she’s never made me feel that way.”
Like several others in Trosen’s class, Peterson’s daughter has special needs.
“She has a talent for teaching in a different way for kiddos that don’t exactly fit the mold and just need a different way of teaching,” Peterson said.
Principal Mike Sauers sees this in Trosen too: “When a kid walks in the door, she’s thinking about teaching them standards, but she’s also thinking ‘How was your night,’ or ‘what are you coming in with today?’” He said she knows that she has to address emotional needs before students can be fully engaged to learn for the day.
“Emily is excellent at giving each kid what they need,” he added.
For example, when Trosen learned recently that a new student would be joining her class, she wanted to make sure he had a warm welcome. So she had the students make a welcome sign and cards for the new student to make his day special.
“She just went above and beyond to welcome this new student and make sure he felt valued in his class, that he was supposed to be there,” Sauers said.
Last October, a lockdown at Molalla Elementary forced the class to huddle together while they waited for the all-clear. The next day, Trosen tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a whole-class quarantine.
As the class shifted to remote learning for two weeks, Trosen tried to keep kids engaged online by maintaining the same class routines. She checked in with students every morning and stayed late for students that wanted to chat.
“There was a little piece of it that was kind of fun,” Trosen said, “for the kids to see their friends without their masks on. And I got to see inside a new group of kids’ homes and meet more parents that way. It was kind of a blessing in disguise.”
For Peterson, it was a way to see Trosen in action.
“I was happy that I was able to sit there and see her teaching style even though it was in our home and different from being in the classroom,” she said.
Throughout the challenges of the past couple of years, Trosen has just tried to remain positive and focus on the relationships she’s building with her students and families. When students have challenging behaviors, Trosen will have them write an apology letter or have a conversation about an issue to continue to grow in the process.
The job requires a lot of patience, she said, “and that is totally not from me, that is from the Lord.”
Principal Sauers said that Trosen exemplifies the school’s vision: “To provide an inclusive environment where all students can be themselves; feeling safe, valued, and having their needs met in order to reach their full potential.”
“She’s here because she cares about kids,” Sauers said. “And if we have staff members in our school that are able to do that collectively … then we’re going to be okay.”