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Augie student teachers go to the front of the class

Seniors give curriculum presentation to Bettendorf School Board

October  15, 2010

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Seniors Jill Forkel and Brandy Capaccio and their second-grade students explain their project to the Bettendorf School Board.

Two Augustana student teachers, who were working with second-graders this term, wanted to end their social studies unit on communities with something better than the typical test or review. So they tried something new.

The efforts of seniors Jill Forkel and Brandy Capaccio earned them an invitation to present their innovative curriculum to the Bettendorf, Iowa, school board.

Forkel and her cooperative teacher, Marcia Green, at Grant Wood Elementary School, turned the back of their second-grade classroom into a hubbub of cardboard houses and buildings. Their students took on the role of urban planners, designing and building a model of Bettendorf.

“When the students can be active and involved, we find they remember what they’ve learned much better,” Forkel said.

Capaccio and her cooperative teacher, Rose Schuch, also at Grant Wood, captured their students’ artistic side. Each student created a 2-D building to contribute to a wall-size class mural. Students not only designed their buildings, but also worked together to lay out their city in a practical way.

“A project like this gets the whole class involved and working together,” Capaccio said. “The students are so proud of what they’ve done because they’ve each contributed a little piece to make it work.”

Forkel and Capaccio’s creative effort was recognized by Grant Wood’s principal, John Cain, who observed in their second-grade classrooms. When Cain was asked to select teachers to do a curriculum presentation for the Bettendorf School Board this month, he chose Forkel and Capaccio to present their project on communities.

An unusual honor

Dr. Chuck Hyser, professor and co-chair of Augustana’s elementary education department, is proud Forkel and Capaccio were selected as the curriculum presenters. “In my time at Augustana, this is the first time student teachers have been asked to do a presentation to the school board,” he said.

At the school board meeting, Forkel and Capaccio explained their projects and showcased six of their students who had done exceptional work. The students each took a turn explaining the reasoning behind the community’s design, such as why they placed Walgreens near the hospital, why they put the fire station near houses and why they wanted an entertainment complex in the community.

Schuch, who has been at Grant Wood for 18 of her 23 years of teaching, applauds Capaccio and Forkel for their strong work in the classroom. “Ms. Capaccio brings energy and heart to our classroom, as well as a strong knowledge base,” she said. “Her light-hearted repertoire of material and engaging demeanor makes learning exciting for the students.”

Green, who has been teaching for 38 years, has equally positive things to say about Forkel’s organization and classroom management. “Ms. Forkel is very warm and caring with the students when she is teaching. The students have tremendous respect for her. She is always looking for ways to make her lessons interactive, and this keeps the students very involved.”

Capaccio and Forkel are eager to continue their work in their own classrooms. “I’m really excited to have my own classroom. It is fun when the kids leave at the end of the day and are excited about coming back the next day,” Capaccio said.

Forkel looks forward to other hands-on projects in the future. “I love seeing the students’ faces light up when they get it. It is exciting for the student, but also exciting for the teacher because you know you played a role in their understanding. You think to yourself, ‘This is why I wanted to be a teacher.’”