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Teacher Impacts Student Communication

Managing Editor

DISTRICT RECOGNITION: Ellen Ochoa Elementary kindergarten teacher Taya Oelze, third from left, holds her award as Union Public Schools’ 2017-2018 District Teacher of the Year. She is standing with, from left, Ochoa Elementary Principal Rita Martin, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Kathy Dodd, and Union Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler.

Courtesy Union Public Schoolsn

Ellen Ochoa Elementary teacher Taya Oelze uses her kindergarten classroom to steer her students down a lifelong path of literacy because “literacy and communication transform students’ lives,” she says.

Oelze was recently named Union Public Schools’ 2017-2018 District Teacher of the Year.

She began teaching for Union five years ago, saying that she was drawn to the district’s energy and excitement: “Union does a fantastic job of building culture and tradition and helping everyone feel like they belong and are part of a team,” she says.

Oelze brings a similar level of energy to her classroom due to her love of teaching.

“When I was younger, I do not think I could have told you why I wanted to be a teacher. It was just an instinct, a feeling, a calling,” says Oelze. “In high school, I seriously contemplated other occupations, but every time I did, I always came back to teaching.”

For as long as she can remember, Oelze has wanted to be a teacher. She remembers playing “school” when she was five years old and has memories of going to school with her mother, also a teacher, to help set up her classroom and to visit students.

As an educator, Oelze believes there are three foundational requirements necessary to work with students with varied learning needs: building student relationships, maintaining awareness of student needs and teaching appropriate communication skills.

While it is true that Oelze teaches because she loves children, she notes that she is also extremely passionate about literacy and impacting those around her.

“The central reason why I teach is because I see a need for effective communication in our world,” she says.

The foundation of literacy and communication is listening and speaking, which then grows into reading and writing, she continues.

“I teach literacy and communication because I know how it will transform students’ lives, beginning with success in grade school and ultimately allowing them to assume roles of influence in the community. In sum, I use literacy to teach communication in order to raise stronger leaders for tomorrow. I teach to change the world.”

Oelze holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood education from Oral Roberts University.

While she plans to continue teaching in the future, she also hopes to coach other teachers.

“I love having impact on the world around me, so I do that by teaching both five-year-olds and educators who can have impact on all of their students as well.”

One way Oelze is providing greater student impact is through a unique teaching technique that she created and then instituted in her classroom with much success.
After witnessing certain types of student behavior reoccurring year after year, she began to identify three particular behaviors that students engage in either to gain or divert attention from themselves.

These “acting out” behaviors are all failed forms of communication, she says.
“These students need to know how to effectively communicate what they need and want through language.”

In response to those behaviors, Oelze created a six-step communication process for her students, taken from adult conflict resolution practices.

“The main message of this process is healthy communication habits,” Oelze says. “Every year, after teaching these principles to my students, my classroom transforms. Students begin to resolve conflicts on their own, and the three types of behavior dilemmas diminish significantly.

“What is more, students report fewer problems on the playground and in the home. This is because my students begin to communicate effectively.”

Due to the success Oelze has seen using this program, she went on to outline a yearlong curriculum for elementary teachers, from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“I am very passionate about this project and getting to see it benefit so many other teachers, students and families,” she says.

Updated 03-20-2018

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