Teacher's change of heart a boon for Marion's students
Elanor Klenda’s students file in and check the white board for their work assignment as she greets them with a smile.
Teaching is not the career she envisioned herself in when her childhood love of biology spurred her to give nursing school a try, but Klenda has no regrets about her choice.
“Every day is a good day for teachers — for the most part,” she says smiling during a planning break between classes. “You see their faces light up when they finally understand something.”
Klenda was Marion High students’ choice for teacher of the month earlier this year. Students vote for their choice once a month.
The honor came as a surprise to Klenda, who was returning from maternity leave after having her son, Daniel, now 7 months old. She has another boy, James, 2, with her husband, Matt.
Klenda, who teaches chemistry, physical science, and biology at Marion, plans a lot of hands-on activities for her students this year.
“I like to have them practicing science so they are not just learning topics,” she said.
Freshman biology students will be performing dissections on a variety of specimens, starting with sea urchins.
She has also begun storylining this year, a first-time experiment that she thinks will challenge her students to think like scientists.
One storyline she selected involves observing lions as they hunt water buffalo. Students are encouraged to ask questions which will guide their research through the remainder of the unit.
She admits this approach may be challenging for some students.
“They find it uncomfortable and want me to tell them the answer,” she said. “I need to have them get there themselves.”
Chemistry students can look forward to some interesting experiments including flame tests on metal to determine types of ions.
Klenda said the district has a set curriculum, but her teaching method is often left up to her.
She starts her day by setting up the projector and making sure the day’s activities are good to go. Her students have lessons to tackle as soon as they walk through the door.
“That way they are not misbehaving,” she said. “I give them some direct instruction and then move on to an activity.”
She uses her planning periods Monday through Thurday to grade students’ work. Fridays are for preparation.
“I scratch out the next week on Fridays,” she said.
Klenda is fascinated by all areas of science, but biology, particularly genetics, has been a favorite.
But medicine was not for her.
The possible heartbreak of working in a hospital emergency room as a nurse made her reflect on the influence her own teachers had on her life.
“I decided I would like to have the same impact on kids that my teachers had on me,” she said.
Students made models of amino acids out of paper earlier this year — and weren’t shy about letting her know they had a great time with the activity.
“I had a group of students say, ‘We had a fun day today. This was fun learning things,’” she said.
Last modified Oct. 24, 2019