Each week Patch sits down with individuals who contribute to the high standards of education in Mahwah, and asks them a few questions to get to know them better.
This week Patch talks to Joyce Kilmer fifth grade teacher, Robert Rufo, about the edge summer school students have over non-summer school students and some sage advice for incoming fifth graders, which holds true for a lifetime.
How long have you been a teacher in Mahwah?
RR: “I am beginning my tenth year as an educator in the Mahwah District. I grew up in Mahwah and attended Betsy Ross, Joyce Kilmer and the Middle School. Mahwah is a special community, so when an opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.”
What do you teach during the school year?
RR: “I facilitate students’ learning in the subject areas of math, science, and social studies.”
Why do you teach summer school?
RR: “I teach summer school for three reasons:
- I really miss the interactions with students.
- An opportunity to hone my instructional strategies.
- My wife makes me.”
Is it harder to teach students during summer school? Are they less attentive during the summer?
RR: “While there are unique challenges in summer school it is not the students’ inattentiveness that is a problem. The students who come are generally focused, and while most of them probably would prefer to be elsewhere, they work tremendously hard to achieve their goals. Another advantage is the class sizes are usually smaller; hence, there is more one-on-one interaction.”
What is the biggest challenge for teachers and students during summer school?
RR: “I am instructing both fourth and fifth graders in mathematics. The different abilities between the grade levels can be significant; therefore, differentiated materials must be collected and taught. For students, I think that being in school while most of their friends are not is the most significant challenge.”
Do summer school students have an edge over other students in September, because they've kept their minds more active?
RR: “I absolutely believe that engaging in mental exercises is as important as physical activities. Research shows that students who do not engage their minds in the summer can lose as much as two and one half months of learning; therefore, summer school students have an edge over their non-summer school counter parts.”
RR: “My family and I are going to Lake George for a week on vacation. When I return it will be time to gear up for the new school year.”
What advice do you have for incoming 5th graders?
RR: “Always put forth 100 percent effort. There is no shame in trying your hardest regardless of the result; there is only shame in not trying.”