Each year, Tyler Reifsteck reads a book to his students about what it’s like to be a newcomer in the United States whose first language isn’t English. For the students in his Multi Language Learner/English as a Second Language class at Carrie Busey Elementary School in Champaign, the book provides an example of students working hard to learn in their new environment without losing a sense of their former homes.
The 10th-year teacher consistently “goes above and beyond,” Principal Craig Keer said, to get his students and their families to that point.
“Tyler ensures that all of his students have the necessary tools to be successful in the classroom,” Keer said. “Whether he is pre-teaching academic vocabulary, building on students’ prior knowledge or assisting students with specific language content, Tyler brings enthusiasm and positivity to his students, classrooms and the larger school. Mr. Reifsteck is an excellent teacher that should be acknowledged and praised for his commitment.”
I find this work important because ... serving our public school system — and especially multi-language-learning families — is crucial to the equity and accessibility available in our community.
I became a teacher because ... I love working with the students and families of diverse backgrounds, the cultures of our world, and the English language itself, with all of its complexities.
My favorite lesson that I teach is ... reading a book entitled “I’m New Here.” The story is about how it feels as a newcomer whose first language isn’t English on the first days of school. I read it every year at the beginning of the school year and I believe the message sets an important tone for every student in the room.
My most fulfilling moments on the job are when ... I see students really enjoying themselves learning in the classroom and being at school.
I keep students engaged by ... being real with students and meeting them where they are as learners. I find it very important to be myself each day and to really show that to my students. It’s no secret that we like to mix hard work together with having fun in my classroom.
Something else I’m passionate about is ... traveling and being active outdoors. My international families and students are my main motivating factors!
My favorite teacher is ... Mrs. Jane Faust. She was my sixth-grade teacher in Villa Grove and I will never forget how she made me feel in her classroom. Her unending kindness, sense of humor, and clearly apparent love for her students and what she does for a living (being an incredible teacher!) will forever inspire me to attempt to recreate those elements for my students in my classroom. I like to think she taught me how to teach and undoubtedly propelled me toward my current moment as a teacher.
If I weren’t a teacher, I would be ... a teacher. I love what I do, very much.
— ANTHONY ZILIS