- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Vicksburg Intermediate School teacher LouAnn Fitzgerald had two driving forces that led to her 15-year career in education.

When she was still in school, Fitzgerald had two very different types of teachers, which served as examples for how she might one day lead a classroom of her own.

“I had one teacher, a science teacher, who really made learning fun,” she said. “It was not just rote work and paperwork, but there were a lot of activities and experiments.”

The other reason was equally inspirational but quite opposite.

“I had a teacher when I was in middle school, a math teacher, who was not very good,” she said. “She was not one of the best teachers. Her pedagogy was not conducive to children learning, and I thought there had to be a better way.”

Fitzgerald said she hopes she is more like her former science teacher.

After 13 years of teaching in Arkansas, her husband got a job in Vicksburg, the family relocated and Fitzgerald accepted her post as a fifth-grade math and science teacher.

Fitzgerald said it’s important to her to make sure her students feel safe whenever they’re in her classroom.

“I have some kids that this is their only safe place,” she said. “This is where they feel that they are cared for and as long as they’re here, everything will be all right.”

Fitzgerald said in addition to providing a safe place where students want to be, she wants to see them learn and understand when they walk through her doors.

“Whenever I’ve got a child that has struggled and struggled and struggled and they get it, it’s just like a light bulb,” she said. “They don’t even have to say a word because you can just see it. It just shines through their eyes.”

While scrolling through Facebook, Fitzgerald said she found the words to describe how she feels about her students.

“Every child has a gift,” she said. “But some of them open them at different times. There’s no bad kid and there’s no stupid kid. They each have some type of a gift or a strength, you just have to help them find it and help them develop it.”

Fitzgerald said part of finding each child’s gift is keeping learning fun and she uses a lot of jokes in her classroom.

“I have no problem making a fool out of myself in front of my students,” she said. “I use funny voices to get them to understand different things like mathematical terminology.”

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