Educators Par Excellence
Following are five area educators who've earned the adjective of "great," according to many of those who've passed through their doors.
Kindergarten, Wayside Elementary, Potomac
Biggest surprise as a teacher:
“The kids are the easiest part of my job. The difficult thing is the adults!”
In Lynnette Lee’s kindergarten class in Potomac, it’s not unusual to hear kids ask: “Why?” One thing you’ll never hear from her in response: “Because I said so.”
Lee believes in offering her kindergartners a reason for everything they must do. That’s what she does on a recent spring day as she speaks to the 5- and 6-year-olds about preparing for a class trip.
“You need to bring your manners, your smile and your patience,” Lee says, using the same measured tone she’d use with parents or co-workers. “Patience,” she adds with a smile, “because we have to wait our turn sometimes, which is hard.”
Lee, who declines to give her age, says she aims to help kids learn not just how to read, write and behave, but also why those things are important.
“If kids get a logical explanation of why you’re asking them to follow certain rules or learn certain concepts, they really respond,” she says. “I like for kids to be able to have a voice in the classroom.”
Lee says she wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Chevy Chase, she loved school, and she has especially fond memories of Lafayette Elementary, where her fourth-grade teacher showed how “a teacher could lead the class in a gentle, soft-spoken manner.”
Lee studied education at Wheelock College in Boston, and briefly taught at Washington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg before coming to Wayside 28 years ago. Principal Yong-Mi Kim describes Lee as a “soft-spoken, easygoing dynamo. Parents whose older children have had Mrs. Lee ask for her again,” she says. “She’s a huge part of what makes Wayside.”
Chris Chase was in Lee’s kindergarten class in 1987. He revisited her classroom as a substitute and para-educator two decades later, and marveled at Lee’s ability to carry on substantial conversations with such small children.
“She has this genteel manner that makes everything sound like a suggestion, even when it’s the usual teacher instruction,” he says.
“I just really enjoy all kids,” says Lee, who lives in Rockville and has two grown children of her own. “They’re all so special and unique. …When you really take time to learn about kids’ personalities—their strengths, interests, likes and dislikes—you can understand how best to work with them.”