Posted Date: 01/02/2021
Whitney Fritzinger – 2020-2021 DeRidder Junior High School Teacher of the Year
“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
This quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., summarizes the viewpoint of DeRidder Junior High School’s seventh grade English Language Arts teacher Whitney Fritzinger, who believes character education plus academic growth is the key to success for students.
“Learning is important,” she said. “but helping students become kinder, more motivated, and more respectful humans is equally valuable.”
She believes in building relationships with her students and finds value in engaging all students and celebrating their differences.
Teaching junior high school students presents its own rewards and challenges. Fritzinger provides a safe and positive learning environment where students can engage in the lessons, express their ideas, and have an opportunity to grow.
She enjoys the cross-curricular aspect of teaching language arts. For students to understand and respond to texts, they must also understand vocabulary, the historical and social setting, social and political issues of the era, and a variety of other factors that pertain to other academic subjects.
“My favorite book to teach is Christopher Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy, which is set in the Great Depression,” she said. “It is always a fascinating experience to walk my students through the facts of that time period and hear their reactions when they learn, for instance, that the poorest families actually sold their children because times were so hard that they could not feed them all.”
“They also have a lot of fun learning the Hobo Alphabet and how it was used by homeless travelers to communicate with each other about safe places to stay, where to find meals, and other important information that helped them survive,” she said.
Connecting the dots from the text to her students’ lives is one of the best parts of teaching for Fritzinger. Students learn about the world and about themselves, and they are developing skills that will help them be informed and empathetic adults in the future, she said.
Her favorite thing about teaching is seeing improvements in students academically, socially, and behaviorally and knowing that she has been a part of those changes.
“When I see their development in these areas, I know I have done the best job possible,” she explained.
A best day scenario for her is when students are paying attention and are fully engaged in the lesson. When they walk away understanding something new – a vocabulary word, reading comprehension, a new skill, or a new understanding of themselves – Fritzinger considers that day to be a success.
Fritzinger is the 2020-2021 DeRidder Junior High School Teacher of the Year.
She has been a classroom teacher for nine years, serving the past four at DJHS. She has taught kindergarten resource at South Beauregard Elementary, third and fifth grades at Fairview Elementary in Lake Charles, fourth and fifth grades at E.K. Key Elementary in Sulphur, fifth grade at the Lake Charles Academy, and eighth grade Social Studies at DJHS. She currently teaches seventh grade ELA inclusion and serves at the school’s 4-H sponsor.
Fritzinger earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education from McNeese State University. She is certified in elementary grades 1-5, middle school language arts, and most recent educational leadership.
Her biggest need as a teacher is for today’s society to value education.
Her advice to new teachers is to understand that education is not black and white; there is much gray space. She would encourage them to differentiate between the times needed to be firm and the times to have grace.“I teach so that my students know that someone cares about them and their future,” she concluded.