Class Act: Oakdale's Penny Anne Muniain

Stacy Graham nominated Penny Muniain for Class Acts. Graham said Muniain has a love for educating her students and creates a warm and loving environment in her classroom. When you watch Muniain's students interact with each other, you see kind expressions on their faces and they look as if they are all one big happy family, Graham added.

Name: Penny Anne Muniain

Age: 62

City: Oakdale

Occupation: Teacher, Grade 3, Sierra View Elementary

Family: A very spoiled cat, Pumpkin

Education Background: B.A. California State University, Stanislaus, California Life Credential/Specialization in English

Teaching Experience: 38 years

Why did you get into teaching? My first years in teaching were in a junior high school setting. I was able to use current events as a basis for our classroom discussions at the start of each morning. As these students expressed and examined their own opinions, as well as their classmates, it produced a very lively and enriching classroom atmosphere. It hooked me on education as a career.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? The sharing of ideas with a youngster's enthusiasm is heart warming. I value guiding them in practicing acts of kindness and recognizing the good nature within others.

What is the most challenging part of your job? I love raising the confidence level of my students. Some students are afraid of making a mistake in multiplication, fractions or division. I take an extra minute to point out each student's progress from one week to the next. Then, I remind them of how afraid they used to be, so we can enjoy their accomplishments.

What is the most important lesson you've learned? I have learned that blaming others doesn't produce much progress. Once a problem is identified, make a plan to move forward toward a positive or desired solution. If everyone sits around blaming each other, nothing is accomplished, so move on!

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I love the technology of my Elmo document camera. Also, the small, student white boards are a wonderful tool for monitoring understanding during guided practice. Class discussions are always a fabulous tool for guiding learning within the classroom.

What's next in your classroom? We are presently reading, "Charlotte's Web," and enjoying the character development among the farm animals. We will be doing murals and writing activities based on the book. I also want to present a class play.

What advice do you have for students? I tell my students that trying to improve even a little bit each day is the proper attitude to have at school. Michael Jordan had to practice to become successful; he wasn't just born as an accomplished basketball player. So practice, practice, practice!

What advice do you have for parents? Parents need to set examples as well as guidelines for their children. Develop a specific spot for homework, and monitor your child. Children are more comfortable if there are boundaries established. Look your children in the eye when you speak to them so they know they have your attention. Your attention doesn't have to be long, just focused.

What will it take to improve academic success in the valley? I would like to see our schools being used for evening parenting classes for our families. Children are not born with guidance manuals. Parents need to be brought together to discuss parenting methods that are effective and produce results. Many parents love their children but do not know how to be effective parents.

How do you reach students not interested in school? Every student has either an interest in sports, friends, cooking, sewing, art, music, singing or even debating. Kids love to talk, so I would start there and develop a dialogue in whatever area is available. Find out why they are not interested in a subject and direct them into an avenue in which an interest might be cultivated. We need to direct our students into being activists within their worlds and not just reactionaries.

What one area should schools put more emphasis on? Most students love wood shop, cooking, singing, art, auto mechanics or working in a school garden. Unfortunately, these are areas being cut from school programs due to budget constraints.

If you could change one thing about the current educational system, what would it be and why? I would direct more funding into the classroom and force everyone to put the children first. Politicians, professional musicians and athletes would be paid minimum wage and teachers would earn the same salaries as attorneys.

What would surprise people about your job? I think people would be surprised by the amount of fun teaching can be as a profession. Sharing each day with my students and their interests has kept me much more interested and happy in my life. My days are very full and satisfying, and I benefit from my students, in sharing hope for the future of our country.

What are your future plans? I will continue teaching for awhile. I am looking forward to more traveling, drawing, water-color painting, as well as cooking classes.