Becky Kallstrom1

Rebecca Kallstrom of Belvidere had planned to be an international business attorney. She majored in political science and finance, with a Spanish minor. Both during college and after graduation, she worked as an accountant. It took just six more months for her to realize that it was not the right fit. She quit that job, became an early childhood paraprofessional and returned to school to become an educator. Rebecca now has 11 years of teaching experience in area Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms, the past three as an Early Childhood teacher at Rockford’s Fairview Early Childhood Center. Principal Darcy Dunn recommended Rebecca, stating that she “teaches our preschool students to read and write … and become kindergarten ready while also focusing on social emotional skills … creating a nurturing community of learners where all students can succeed and feel welcomed.” A student’s parent nominated Rebecca, writing that after “Miss Becky” focused on her son’s issue transitioning from drop-off to class time, his whole attitude changed. Now “he looks forward to going to school every day and he learns SO much! She makes learning fun and he doesn't even realize he's learning so much!” She aims for structure and consistency in her classroom and strives for 100% parent participation at conferences, accomplishing that goal in November. Rebecca uses several methods to gather data to create lessons to reach all students, to measure progress and to share. She studies the rubrics, developing instructions to help other Fairview teachers also improve their success rates. Rebecca considers diversity an ongoing topic. Her classroom features diverse books and toys. She finds multiple ways to use them, such as using blocks not just to stack, but to count, measure, or sort by size, shape and color. Each year, Rebecca asks families to provide information about their child: three words to describe him/her; two things they want her to know about the child; one wish they have for their child; and what holidays they do or do not celebrate. This year, Rebecca’s class includes a child who is a Jehovah’s Witness; that child doesn’t celebrate any holidays or birthdays. Rebecca was able to talk with his family about expectations and modifications she could make to ensure inclusivity. Rebecca constantly collaborates with parents, resource teachers, speech pathologists, social workers, therapists and other teachers to develop plans and gather resources to best serve each student. She enjoys participating in committees, leadership teams, phone calls and text messages. She says, “All children can learn. It is my job to find the magic formula to make sure all children grow. I heard a saying that popcorn pops at different times and we need to wait for the right moment for it to pop. Not all children learn the same; children will “pop” when they are ready to learn …. “Teaching is my passion and I believe strongly in educating our littlest learners.”