Amy Wallander teaches third grade at Cotton Boll Elementary. Last school year was a different school experience for everyone, and that was true for Wallander and her students.
While the school returned to in-person classes in September after starting online last August, “We didn’t get to do field trips, and we didn’t do centers,” explains Wallander. Despite the changes in their routines, the students were “so happy to be here, and I was happy to be here with them and for them,” she says.
She says students adjusted to wearing masks very well. “They were so good about it—they kept masks on, nobody lost them, they came back from lunch with them,” says Wallander.
Wallander is an only child and says she always knew she wanted to be “surrounded by kids.” She thought about becoming a teacher when she was young, in second or third grade.
Wallender taught kindergarten and first grade for five years each, and has now taught third grade for eight years. Until this pandemic year, Wallander’s mom had always volunteered in her classroom. Wallander hopes that her mom will be able to return to her classroom this upcoming school year.
Wallander says that she loves to see students come out of their shells. “It’s very important to me that they know they are safe to make mistakes—they won’t be laughed at or judged,” she explains.
When a student can “talk about why they made a mistake” instead of feeling embarrassment, “I feel that that’s a big skill that makes for a lot of integrity and a lot of honesty,” says Wallander.
“I always tell my kids that everybody is good at something, and nobody is good at everything,” says Wallander. She notes that her favorite thing to teach is math, and when she was a student math was her favorite subject—she had to work harder in reading.
Student Benjamin writes that Wallander helps “me and my friends feel like we can do so many things each day...I will miss her next year.”
Wallander and her family are all loyal to Peoria Unified, she says. Her husband is an assistant principal in the district and their three kids (now in their 20s) all went to Peoria schools.