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"My Goal is to Create Change-Makers!”

December 10, 2021 | By Dorothy Tecklenburg

Laurie Maglietta
Laurie Maglietta

Laurie Maglietta believes a teacher has one overriding responsibility: to teach students to think. Not what to think. How to think. How to gather information, evaluate the reliability of the source, and decide for themselves what is right.

She thinks about thinking a lot more than the average person. As a fifth-grade teacher at McGuffey School District’s Joe Walker Elementary School, it’s part of who she is.

Her commitment to her students was a factor in her being named a Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator by the Washington County Community Foundation.

“My favorite moments of teaching are when I'm working with a child who is struggling to understand something and has the ‘OH! I get it now!’ moment,” she shared. “There is a lot of silent waiting for connections before we get that ‘AHA’ moment. You learn to just be quiet and wait.”

There are times when she can’t wait.

“Sometimes, we need to move on too quickly – ‘make sure you cover all of those standards!’ It's sad to see so many kids lost because we ‘had to move on.’”

Ms. Maglietta prefers learning experiences that reflect real-world problems.

Her students restored the riparian buffer on the Joe Walker property. (What does “riparian” mean? Look it up!) They researched the causes of stream erosion and how it damages water quality, then partnered with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to restore the bank. The kids learned to see a problem, educate themselves, brainstorm solutions, and take action.

“I don't want them to feel powerless. My goal is to create change-makers!”

Her enthusiasm for the project is palpable.

“In 30 years of teaching, this was my proudest work. Clean water is one of our most precious resources; we cannot survive without it.”

Whether working in the classroom or on special projects, she never forgets that she is dealing with someone else’s child. She knows parents are “counting on me to use my knowledge to help their child academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Parents respect her.

“It is very encouraging to watch my daughter learn in such a supportive environment,” wrote Michelle Miller-Kotula. “She brings out the best in students.”

Students love her, like Nina H. “She always makes people feel included and always makes sure everybody is treated kindly no matter who they are. She always makes sure we understand the lessons.”

Ms. Maglietta’s priorities are obvious in her sometimes blunt advice to new teachers:

1. Teaching is exhausting. It takes mental and physical energy.

2. Can you multi-task? You're making thousands of split-second decisions while 20 customers wait for your attention.

3. Enjoy their age level. If you can't hack it, move.

4. Enjoy learning with your students. If you don’t, do something else.

5. Share your passions with your kids.

6. Remember it’s not an assembly line. Take them from where they are TOWARD where they need to be. Make sure they make progress while they're in your care.

Former supervisor Erica Kolat said, “Ms. Maglietta understands children and will do whatever it takes to ensure that all children grow.”

Even without looking it up, that’s a great definition of teaching.

In recognition of being named a recipient of the Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award, Ms. Maglietta directed a $1,000 grant from the Foundation’s Acorn Fund to McGuffey School District for the purchase of water monitoring equipment and supplies.