By Julie Ann Madden

Posted April 16, 2020 at 7:29 pm

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“I really didn’t consider myself an Unsung Hero,” said Akron-Westfield Preschool Teacher Annie Solberg when The Akron Hometowner contacted her. “I was really surprised.”

“I just really love what I do,” she said. “I felt like reaching out to my (students’) families was the least I could do to try to help them out.”

“(My fellow teachers) are rock stars,” said Annie. “They have in a very small amount of time made the adjustments needed to be able to teach their kiddos and connect with them right now.”

“I’m really, really proud to be part of the Akron-Westfield School and to be on the same team as they are,” she said.

Annie teaches A-W preschoolers, ages 3 – 5. She began her teaching career in Akron Children’s Center as the three- and four-year-old teacher. In 2014, when Akron-Westfield took over the preschool, she became A-W’s preschool teacher. In 2018, she began teaching both the Early Childhood Special Education and Early Childhood students.

The first week Iowa schools were closed, she and Teacher’s Aide Bobbi Fegley celebrated School Spirit Week.

Now, they offer students daily challenges, which differ from day to day. Challenges include mathematics, literacy, physical activities and social-emotional activities.

One challenge was activities using scissors to practice cutting skills.

A Social-Emotional challenge was using something to create faces that were happy and sad. She extended the activity by asking the students to write the word “happy” or “sad.”

Their 38 Preschoolers can also watch videos of Annie and Bobbi reading books to them.

Annie has a class Shutterfly page where students can upload photos of themselves doing the challenges. Sometimes parents post quick notes about their children’s progress.

“Our curriculum is called Creative Curriculum — it’s all learning through play,” explained Annie. “In our classroom instead of learning a letter or number a week, we try to have it be all inclusive as much as we can every day.”

“We follow the kids’ lead as much as we can so if they are playing a game that has letters in it, we’ll talk with them — naming the letters, showing them how the letters are formed and its sound. We do a lot with songs, rhymes, finger plays and games,” she said. “Our goal is to have it be learning and they don’t even realize that’s what they are doing — to have it be fun and interactive.”

“At this point, rather than having a really specific task they are working on, we’re trying to give them a variety of different learning categories,” said Annie. “We try to keep it varied to keep their interest.”

“(With the daily challenges), we can at least try to keep track of where the students are at — if we see any growth as we’re still out of school,” said Annie. “We’re not required to do our assessment tool for the rest of the year but we still want to be able to pass on to their Discovergarten or Kindergarten teachers where they are at this point.”

“The most important thing is not to worry since the whole country is in the same predicament,” she said. “I’ve tried to reassure parents if their kiddos are happy and safe, that that’s what they need most right now.”

“In terms of school work, it’s hard because many parents aren’t teachers,” said Annie. They’ve been forced into that role. I encourage them to reach out to Akron-Westfield teachers because everybody is ready and willing to help provide resources or support and anything the families would need.”

“Everybody is just showing each other a lot of grace right now and just trying to be supportive,” said Annie. “There’s more people than not doing that so I’m really humbled that someone considered me to be an Unsung Hero. It touches my heart.”

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