By Joseph Phillips/Staff Writer
Photo Caption: Mrs. Kelly Sokolowski ‘s students work independently during class. Photo by Joseph Phillips
Zach Livingston, 10, describes Mrs. Kelly Sokolowski as, “(She) is a cool teacher and usually pretty laid back.” He also said, “Mrs.Sokolowski is always willing to help when we need it, answers questions when we ask, but I feel like we get too many projects in that class. I wish other teachers were like her.”
This is Mrs. Sokolowski’s 10th year of teaching and her second year of teaching at GC. Her first 8 years were in Vigo County and she teaches English/Language Arts.
Mr. Brent Oliver, GC English department head who has been working with Mrs. Sokolowski for two years, says when it comes to teaching, Sokolowsksi is dedicated and focused. “She works hard and gets things done, that’s for sure. She is really good at asking questions to check to be sure students really understand.” He describes her as a great co-worker. “Even though last year was challenging, she embraced that challenge very well.”
Sokolowski says what she thinks her greatest strengths and weaknesses are. “I think one of my strengths is being able to break down the material in a way that students can understand it. One of my weaknesses is procrastination. I tend to put off tasks that I don’t like to do, and sometimes I have to scramble to get things done.”
Sokolowski tells about her journey of teaching. “I had a completely different career before becoming a teacher. I started out in a teaching program when I first started college, but changed my mind after my first semester to focus on creative and technical writing. I worked in marketing designing materials for a biotech company for years. I thought about going back to get my teaching degree for a long time. I took time off work when I had my children. When I started helping my kids with their homework, I started to think about teaching again, so I went back to college and got my license.”
Sokolowski says her first day at GC as being stressful. “I was hired only a few days before the first day of school. I didn’t even know what classes I would be teaching until the night before school started, so the first day of school was stressful but exciting at the same time.” She then began to describe one of the craziest things she has seen while she’s been here. She describes a Tik Tok challenge where students steal or destroy school property.
Mrs. Sokolowski describes her average school day. “I usually arrive around 7:45 a.m. I use that quiet time to answer emails and get materials ready for the day. After the 8:30 bell, I am busy teaching English 10. I try to relax during lunch, but most days I am either using that time to answer emails, grade, or work on lesson plans. Depending on my schedule, some days I stay late after school to finish grading or planning for the next day. Often, I bring work home and work on it there.” She reads to take care of herself so she doesn’t burn out. She also plays video games.
She talks about the best and worst parts of teaching. “I love discussing literature with my students and getting their opinion on the stories we read. I love a good debate in class about theme or character motivations.”
On the other hand, she says, “The hardest part of teaching is keeping students engaged, especially with cell phones and iPads in the classroom. Technology can be a usual tool, but a big distraction in the classroom.”
There were several things she wished she knew her first year of teaching. “I have several friends who were teachers, and they gave me lots of help/advice in my first year. Even with that advice, I did not realize the amount of time I would spend grading. I wish I knew that not every activity done in class needed to be graded. I could have saved myself a lot of time then.”
She also gives great advice for people who want to teach. “I would tell them that the first few years are the most difficult. Teaching is a huge commitment, and it is not just a 9-5 job. There will be many times when you will take work home with you, but the most important thing you can do is to take time for yourself and your family.”