Alice Patalano has been a first grade teacher in the Burlington School District since 2001. She has been teaching at Champlain Elementary School for the last year and before that taught at the Integrated Arts Academy. Prior to teaching in Burlington, Alice was the team leader for an integrated preschool program for five years in Massachusetts and brought the program to NAEYC accreditation.
When did you decide to become a teacher and why did you choose this field?
I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was a kid, I used to line up the kids in my neighborhood and teach them. I really love teaching kids to read. I love watching that process unfold. It’s wonderful to watch kids transform from feeling like they can’t do something and giving them the skills so they feel confident. Taking them from not knowing some of their letters to reading on their own… and some of them even reading chapter books.
What do you like best about teaching?
So, I think its setting the environment and the tone of the classroom, so that kids feel a real sense of belonging and feel safe and know that their learning styles are going to be honored. Making it a place where they can make choices for themselves, so they feel empowered in their learning. I really strongly believe that it’s not just about benchmarks and standards, but it’s about promoting social skills and social growth. If kids are motivated, they will learn.
What would students say they had learned after spending a year in your class?
That’s something I ask my students every year and they usually say “I feel really good about myself as a reader.” And it’s just finding that individual key and unlocking the magic for them and giving them the skills and scaffolding so that they can become a confident reader. And it opens so many doors. I think that’s what first grade is about, opening doors and letting them see the world around them, discovering.
How do your friends describe you?
They’d say I’m organized, reflective, straight-forward, energetic, upbeat, and supportive. And that I’m an independent thinker.
What’s special about teaching in Burlington?
What’s special about Burlington is the diverse community of learners and the opportunities and challenges that brings. The teachers are great at supporting each other and our colleagueship helps us meet the challenges.
What do you do outside of school?
I play bocce on a team. I read and hang out with family. I like to travel. I like to cook and I love anything Italian.