New this year to the Riverbank Unified School District and to Mesa Verde Elementary, fourth grade teacher Kathe Gonsalves has been busy these past few weeks with the beginning of school, setting up her classroom and a new curriculum. Each day it gets a little bit easier for her and with helpful students and staff, it has made the start to the new school year even better.
“I love it,” expressed Gonsalves about teaching. “I am having fun. It is so much work. I just really don’t know if people realize how hard teachers work. You love these children and you want to give them everything that you have and so I am here really early and I am here really late. Because once they walk through the door, you have to be ready for them.”
After working at an insurance agency and being discouraged by the emphasis on sales and commissions, Gonsalves decided to go back to school to get her teaching credential. She always wanted to be in the service industry and although she was married with three children and going back to school was a challenge, she started out slowly. But her second career has been rewarding, as she has 25 years’ experience now in teaching.
Prior to starting her teaching career at Mesa Verde this school year, Gonsalves was working at the San Joaquin County Office of Education where she has been for the past 11 years. She also taught all grades with Manteca Unified School District prior to moving to the county office. With a master’s degree in reading and experience with reading intervention she has a love and passion for reading. Working with administration was a great experience for her but she missed working at a school site with her own classroom and the children.
“I love working with children,” stated Gonsalves. “I love learning. I found myself really wanting to come back and continue that work and be a part of the team. So I just missed the students and having my own group of students to teach. But I also just missed the camaraderie that you have working at a school site, it is really special.”
This school year one of her goals for her fourth graders is to ignite passion for reading. Along with the help from the students categorizing the books in the little library they created in the classroom, they also engage in a read aloud portion of class time that engages the students in discussion about the books and helps their comprehension. Through the San Francisco Children’s Book Project, Gonsalves was able to pick up 73 books to put in her classroom and get the small library started.
Although the classroom has gone digital for many things and teachers use technology on a regular basis, Gonsalves explained that it is still very important for kids to read printed text and hold a book in their hands. She added that current research has shown that it is better for kids to read print text versus digital; however, there needs to be a balance.
The students have a weekly social studies newspaper that has information, a color activity and a crossword puzzle. In one exercise, Gonsalves gave the students 11 different things on the map of the State of California that they had to place on their map like Sacramento, the Pacific Ocean, and the Central Valley before looking at an actual map of California.
Excited for the new school year with her 28 students at Mesa Verde, Gonsalves – who lives in Manteca – may have a little longer commute than she originally anticipated, but said she has now adjusted, using the commute as a time to unwind.