Class Acts: A Q&A with Yumi Soares

Gail Bucheli and her grandson Jayden Costa nominated Yumi Soares for Class Acts. Bucheli said Soares has a special connection with each of her students including her grandson, who is in Soares' classroom. Soares uses hand signals and words to help students understand the lessons and gives each of them a chance to show they have grasped what she is teaching. Jayden hopes his younger brother is lucky enough to have her as his teacher when he is in second grade.

• Name: Yumi Soares

• Age: 41

• City of residence: Modesto

• Occupation: Second-grade teacher at Modesto's Beard Elementary School

• Family: Husband, David; sons Kenji, 16, and Seiji, 14

• Education background: Bachelor's degree and teaching credential from California State University, Stanislaus

• Teaching experience: This is my fifth year teaching second grade at Beard Elementary. I have taught kindergarten at Fremont Elementary and student-taught in sixth grade at Enslen Elementary under a supportive master teacher. I was also blessed to have taught at a Japanese cultural school during the summer months in Cressey.

Why did you get into teaching? My first desire to go into teaching began as a parent volunteer in my children's classrooms. This has allowed me to experience firsthand how rewarding a career teaching can be when empowering the lives of children with knowledge.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? Providing my students with the tools and strategies to be successful in the classroom and in life.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Finding teaching strategies based on each student's level of learning.

What is the most important lesson you've learned? Students also have a great wealth of knowledge and experiences. It's always great to engage them with others who may not have the same knowledge.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? My recent purchase of an ELMO document camera. Children are often fascinated with new technology; it keeps them curious and engaged.

What's next in your classroom? My students are finishing their written biography report. They will also give an oral presentation dressed as their person from their report. For example, we will hear from Michelangelo to Albert Einstein. It'll be very interesting to all.

What advice do you have for students? Ask questions. "The only silly question is the one not asked."

What advice do you have for parents? Embrace your child's education; if it's important to you, it will also be important to your child. Also, keep an open dialogue with the teacher and participate in school functions. Be aware of local issues and how they can affect your child's education.

What will it take to improve academic success in the valley? Education needs to be relevant for our youth. Tying academics to real-world situations allows children to see the importance of education.

How do you reach students not interested in school? I praise students for their accomplishments in hopes of building their self-confidence.

What one area should schools put more emphasis on? The emphasis should be on preparing children to be productive citizens and future leaders, regardless of their educational pursuits.

If you could change one thing about the current educational system, what would it be and why? The first change would be in the areas of the arts, music and technology in our educational system. These areas are essential for developing critical thinking and team-building skills. It is commonplace that various vocations, including higher education, seek an individual who is well-rounded and has life skills.

What would surprise people about your job? It's truly the time and effort, which goes into preparing a day's lesson plan. I use a variety of ways to engage students by bringing actual items to the classroom. Furthermore, many of us are on school committees, provide tutoring and attend parent-sponsored events at our site. We are correcting work at home and planning for the following week during the evenings and on the weekends. In the summer, many of us take professional development classes and prepare lessons for the beginning of the school year.

What are your future plans? There is a sense of uncertainty this year since I am one of the many teachers who received a pink slip. Instead of taking professional development classes this summer, I'll be updating my résumé and compiling my letters of recommendation for job prospects. Someone upstairs may have something else in store for me. I hope my experience can be utilized in our community. Last but not least, I want to thank my parents, past and present from Room 30, for all your kindness and support.