Teacher of the Year named at BG Schools
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 15 September 2012 07:42
As a Title 1 teacher at Kenwood Elementary, Jennifer Ostrowski has helped dozens of students become competent readers.
|Jennifer Ostrowski, reading specialist at Kenwood Elementary, works with A.J. Tracy, 7, in her room. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
She also led the school's 3 million minute reading challenge last school year - it's 3.5 million this year.
But her building principal nominated Ostrowski for Bowling Green School District's teacher of the year because of a high school student's experience with her.
It was close to graduation in May when a high school student showed up at Kenwood asking to see Ostrowski, said Dr. Martha Fether, Kenwood principal.
He wanted to thank her for help early on in his high school career that got him focused on his studies.
"That says volumes, when a high school student comes back to seek out a teacher," Fether said.
When she related that story to the group of Bowling Green administrators that votes on "teacher of the year," they agreed. Ostrowski was recognized during the opening day meeting and received a plaque.
Ostrowski came to Kenwood three years ago when her job in career-based intervention at Bowling Green High School was eliminated. She had also taught special education students.
"Her transition has been absolutely flawless. It just goes back to when you're a good teacher, you're a good teacher," Fether said.
As Title 1 reading teacher, Ostrowski serves 40 to 50 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, helping them improve their reading skills.
"We work on phonics, reading strategies, and through guided reading we try to get to their level," she said.
Some students are with her for a few months, others for the entire school year.
Students come to her tiny office for sessions. Teacher and student either work across a table from each other, or the children are welcome to settle into green and blue pillowed chairs that sit on a polka-dotted rug.
Ostrowski fills boxes with themed books: "Clifford" the big red dog, biographies, science, dinosaurs, ABCs, Jan Brett.
"The younger kids still enjoy coming to school," she said of the change from high school to Kenwood. "They're still in that innocent stage. You see that excitement when they've learned something new."
For her students, Ostrowski makes sure they have books at their level so they can see success, and creates special graphs that chart their progress.
"That's a huge motivator for the students I work with."
All Kenwood readers came together for the 3-million minute challenge last year. Students logged minutes at home, in the classroom and through special school programs like "books and bagels" and a visit with "Bad Kitty" author Nick Bruel. There were celebrations after each million milestone.
Ostrowski, with the help of third-grade teacher Jeni Niekamp, launched the programs and kept track of minutes with an Excel computer program.
It was so effective, they're doing it again this year with a goal of 3.5 million minutes. New for this school year are book clubs, which will get established through a $2,000 Target grant that the two teachers applied for.
Ostrowski, who is 36, and her husband, Christopher, have two children, Ella, 6, and Alexander, 4.
She has a bachelor's degree in education, specializing in special education, and a master's degree in educational administration and supervision, both from Bowling Green State University.
Before coming to Bowling Green, she taught in Willard, which is where she grew up.
The push to read is to help students excel in all areas of school and life, Ostrowski said.
"You read every day of your life, no matter what your job is, your education is," she said. "You have to be able to read at a basic level."