Staff Focus: Suzanne Vert, K2B Teacher

Written by: Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer 

Suzanne Vert is a teacher in the ECE who was chosen to be interviewed for the digital library project she has started this year. It began as a goal she has set for herself within the K2 classroom and it seems that this is taking on another dimension. Let’s meet Suzanne Vert!

You just joined YCIS last year too, just like me! Please tell me what your project is all about.

The idea of this project is to incorporate technology and physical books. Initially, this was for my K2 students to help foster in them a love of reading. Also, it corresponds to one of the developmental goals of the Early Years programme that we follow in the ECE.

The principle is as follows: On a bookshelf of 10 books, the student can choose the book that they want and look for the corresponding audio on the IPad. They can just click on the image of the same book they have chosen and listen to the audio while holding and turning the pages of the physical book.

Let me show you an example with this book “Where’s My Teddy?”. This is read by three EAL students and they chose “STOMP STOMP” as a sound to indicate when we have to turn the page. This one of the 3 Little Pigs is read in Chinese and they chose a different sound of “PLING”.

When did you start this project? You have so many books already!
It started a couple of weeks ago. Kathleen Wu ( Primary EAL Teacher) had her students doing it in English and they have been enjoying it a lot. Also, as you mentioned students and parents got really excited with the project and this is why there are more Chinese books for the moment. Ms Shen had to take down her poster after 2 days since she received so many emails of interest and had to look for a book corresponding to the level of the child. Actually, she even chose some Primary books.

This project has taken another dimension as I am meeting with Dudley Stuurmann, the Secondary teacher who is in charge of Community Action Service (CAS) opportunities for Year 7 & 8 students and he was talking about students choosing the book of their choice and use Century Park Campus recording studio to read with performing voices. We’ll see how it goes.

Wow, so what is the objective? How many audio books would you like to have?
Well, I was discussing with Tania the Primary Teacher Librarian and she said some parents had been asking for audios. This seems to be a great opportunity! I would love to have a database of 100 books to create a listening centre for the kids during the ECE’s CCL, you know the Class Community Learning we started this year where all the children of the same year level come together.

Oh, I see…Ok, let’s talk about you now! You are American. Where from exactly? When did you arrive in Shanghai and what were you doing before coming to YCIS?
I’m from California. I came to Shanghai in 2006. Right after completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, I gained a teaching position at a Chinese Private School where I taught for 8 years before joining the YCIS team.

So after studying medicine, you began teaching…
Haha, yes it sounds a bit complex. It reminds me of my interview with Damien! When I came to Shanghai, I was hired for a position as a kindergarten teacher. However, when the school saw that I had studied medicine in university, they asked if I would be willing to use my background to teach Science. So, I first taught Science in 4th, 7th and 11th grade. However, after 4 years, I was still interested in working in Early Childhood Education and in 2010 began my journey with preschool children. In between, I had my two daughters and took some time off from work. I began working part time for the Community Center Shanghai in Marketing for special events and editing a bilingual cook book. I returned back to ECE in 2014 because I loved working with this age group. At the same time, I began to pursue teaching credentials for K through Grade 6 (Year 7) and graduated while I was teaching.

K2, this isn’t the easiest age-level. Is it difficult to cope with behaviour management?
Actually, not really. I am used to working with students and setting rules. For this age-level, schedules and routines are essential. Once they are clear about these, then they thrive. We teach students independence and we emphasise  positive behavior management. The children at this age love to be encouraged and rewarded when they make good choices and I’ve found that enforcing that behaviour brings out the positives in all the children. They are so eager and excited to learn that they quickly pick-up things. I am a high energy person and I love to make it fun for them so this is the perfect fit.

So how do you see your future? What is your plan now?
Coming from a non-educational background initially, I am eager to learn more and become a stronger teacher. This profession is incredibly rewarding because teachers are so vital in developing adults that feel empowered and can make a difference. Teachers that are continuously learning to create strong environments for learning are so influential.

This is the age that we begin fostering a love for learning. As an ECE teacher, we help children develop their minds by helping them to ask questions and look for the answers. This is where the process of growth mindset starts. For example, when they just pick a toy, we can be there to help them wonder why did they pick this toy? What characteristics does the toy have? What can they do with the toy?

As an ECE teacher, you learn so much. My main goal is to know if I am encouraging children to push themselves for discovery and answers. I also need to keep learning as I want to be able to provide tools to encourage children to do this. Sometimes, we may not know the answer and we need to take a path to discovery. If we teach children how to find answers, this is a skill that they can use for the rest of their life.

Teaching ECE children is so rewarding. At this age, children are inquisitive; they love learning. If we create a growth mindset, they will always have a desire for knowledge.

In one of our Professional Development meetings, we were shown a video that was talking about the future in jobs. They spoke about how the jobs available now will be gone in 5 years because of how much the world is moving forward. This was an eye-opener for me to realize that these kids will live in such a different world than what we know and that we need to foster the love of learning so that our children can adapt in the world of tomorrow.

ECE is an important time for children to start learning. There are no marks or grades at this time because we are focusing on the process that gets children to the finish line.  I really enjoy the approach the school has with the ECE because it allows children to explore and the teachers are facilitators. Our main goal is to support the children’s learning.

Thank you for your time. It was an amazing experience to talk with you. I am not only thrilled by the project you have started but I am also impressed by your life path and career choice. You proved to me again how we should not put people in boxes as every individual is unique and special.