WT: You’ve been a Diverse Learner Support teacher for a few years now, but you’ve also had your own classroom. Can you tell us a little bit about your teaching history?
Ms. Booczko: After college, I spent a year teaching 2nd grade in the Milwaukee Public School system. Then I moved to Chicago to teach Spanish at Andrew Jackson Language Academy—a great experience, but my heart was just not in it. From there I went to Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center for 6 years, where I taught Kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th grades. After my first daughter was born, I spent 8 years teaching Kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grades at Stockton Elementary in Uptown. During that time I had two more babies, so I took 3 years off to stay home with my kids. In 2009, I started at Waters! Since I’ve been here I’ve taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, and now I work with our wonderful diverse learners!
What do you love most about teaching at Waters?
Working with students is my favorite part of every teaching job I’ve had. They are what make every day unique!
You’ve taught so many different grades! Do you have a favorite?
If I had to pick, I’d say 1st grade is the most rewarding as a teacher. There is so much growth at that age.
Speaking of growth, where did you grow up?
I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there until I was 17. After graduating from high school, I took what is now a very popular “gap” year and went to France as an exchange student. From there I went there to college at Marquette University in Milwaukee. I’ve lived in Wisconsin or Illinois ever since, but home will forever be Puerto Rico.
That’s quite the journey—did you always want to be a teacher?
Actually I always wanted to be a sports reporter, but 1st semester freshman journalism class was not what I expected. Plan B had never even crossed my mind, but somehow I ended up in elementary education. Needless to say, some things are meant to be!
It’s been a crazy year, and you've spent a lot of time observing students in virtual classrooms. What’s your biggest takeaway?
Remote teaching has been an unbelievable experience, both positive and negative. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but a year ago I barely knew how to navigate a Google Classroom! Figuring out things like Google Meets, Jamboards, and presenting my screen felt like deciphering a foreign language. My biggest takeaway is that nothing can replace the live, daily interactions with students.
We’re sure there isn’t a parent or teacher who’d disagree with you. Do you have any advice for parents and caretakers who are concerned their kids will be "behind" after this year?
These are unchartered waters for all of us. There have been success stories as well as some very challenging moments, and this pandemic has truly affected everyone. Someway, somehow, we are all behind—but we will find our way back to our new normal.
And what would you say to kids who feel like life is never going to go back to "normal"?
I’d say I agree—life is not going to go back to normal, it’s going to be better!
There’s that trademark Ms. Booczko positivity! You are known for having such amazing classroom presence, both in person, of course, and also on screen—truly, there isn't a kid at Waters who doesn't know and love you. What's your secret?
It must be that I really, really, love teaching! I am very passionate about my job, take it very seriously, and enjoy what I do.
What else do you enjoy doing? How do you spend your time when you're not at school?
I enjoy watching just about every sport on TV—this includes cornhole and Spikeball tournaments, NASCAR, bass fishing, and curling. I also enjoy reading mysteries and cooking.
Wow, we didn’t even know televised cornhole tournaments existed! Is there anything your students would be surprised to learn about you?
Hmm, this is a good question because I think my former students know me pretty well. What if I share what I think most of my students would prefer not to know about me: I’m a Packers fan!!!
Love that you just dropped that bomb—we have a feeling you’re going to hear about this one! Final question: When the world goes back to normal, so to speak, what's the first thing you'll do?
Without a doubt, a trip to Puerto Rico to see my parents is #1 on my list. Most likely they will be the ones to travel to see all of their kids, but relaxing on a beach with them would be a welcome treat after this long year!
A little R+R in Puerto Rico sounds amazing to us, too. Thank you Ms. Booczko!