Karissa Dooley

Karissa Dooley of Machesney Park is a Kindergarten teacher at South Beloit's Clark Elementary, where she's taught her whole 20-year teaching career. Certainly, she’s seen many changes over those years. “When I was first starting in my classroom, I had two blackboards and two desktop computers. Now I'm teachimg 24 Kindergartners to log in with usernames and passwords to individual Chromebooks and using my Smart Board every day.” Karissa says she struggled all through school. Having been diagnosed with a learning disability in third grade, she didn’t learn why reading and writing were so challenging for her until she met a new resource teacher in high school. Once tested, she finally got the help she needed such as books on tape and untimed tests. “These accommodations helped me continue my education in college and understand learning in a whole new way. I now use that understanding of learning difficulties to help my Kindergarten students build the base for their entire educational careers.” Principal Matthew Roer notes that “her ability to identify and provide one on one instruction for her students if they are struggling is one of her greatest strengths as a teacher.” A Clark parent said, “She gives her students the opportunity to make choices in the classroom, whether it be where they sit, who they sit by or what center they complete; she allows them the freedom to choose. Both of my daughters left Kindergarten ready for the challenges that lay ahead of them academically in first grade. They also left with solid social skills, thanks to Mrs. Dooley’s efforts in teaching them more than just what was in the academic books.” Karissa’s dedication is not only to her students, but also to her fellow teachers and all the students in the school. She gives up her lunchtime to help Kindergartners in the cafeteria. She gives up prep time to ride the bus after school to make sure students behave appropriately and get home safely. She mentors new teachers. And she has written several grants which have provided books for the school. Karissa also volunteers in the community, delivering food baskets, reading and helping the food pantry. By being active in the community, she gets another view into the backgrounds and needs of students she teaches and they know how much she cares. She stresses to students that fair is not the same as equal, but is doing what someone needs to be successful, whether that refers to special supplies, seating or time.“During the year, we talk about the many different kinds of Social Emotional Learning, like how to be a good friend and student. In our classroom, we are a family that chooses to treat others the way we want to be treated, and a community that learns how to talk to each other.”