Lisa Istad 2019 2020

Lisa Istad of Rockford has six years of teaching experience and is in her fifth year of teaching fifth grade at Durand Elementary. Kurt Alberstett, Lisa’s past principal and current superintendent, calls her “an intelligent, caring, innovative teacher who is well liked and respected by students, parents and colleagues. She works effectively with students of all abilities.” Lisa struggled in elementary school. But, because of her fifth grade teacher who reached her through engaging lessons, contagious enthusiasm, praise and love, she knew she wanted to be a teacher like that. One who changes lives. You know the Maya Angelou quote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”? Well, Lisa found that to be true when she attended the 8th grade graduation of a student who’d been in the first class she’d taught. The student’s mother told Lisa that her son had called his friends because he’d heard she was coming to graduation and that he still talks about her all the time: about class lessons and activities, but mostly about how she made him feel and how much he enjoyed school because of her. Lisa considers creating relationships with students a must. At the beginning of each school year, she learns about her students’ learning styles, areas of expertise and challenge, cultural backgrounds and personalities to adapt lessons to meet their academic needs, since each year she teaches new learners who learn differently. When Lisa went back to get her master’s degree, her students weren’t just aware of it; they thought it was “cool.” She says “they were more motivated to do well in my class, because they knew that I was being expected to do the same in my classes.” Lisa considers it her job to collaborate with everyone: peers, specialists and parents. She also works hard to meet student’s emotional needs. Each day, she greets students with their choice of a hug, high five, fist bump or thumbs up. Lisa’s classroom motto is “Choose Kindness.” To instill this mindset, she reads “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud the first week of school. “The story discusses how everyone has an invisible bucket that follows you everywhere and you can either dip [by being rude or non-inclusive] or fill other people’s buckets [by being kind and doing nice things for them]. My students write Bucket Slips, compliments/notes of encouragement, to their classmates every Friday, which allows them to fill their classmates’ buckets.” She has even turned trips to the principal’s office into positive experiences by sending them, “with a written note from me that explains their positive behavior and how proud I am of them.”