- Who: Stacey Strell
- Position: Art and peer counseling teacher
- Grades: Six, seven and eight
- School: Bonita Charter School
- Principal: Deborah Tracy
Stacey Strell has the unique opportunity to utilize her talents, by teaching two diverse classes at Bonita Charter School.
The former Chicago native graduated from the University of Illinois and has been teaching for 15 years. Six years ago, Strell settled in Southwest Florida and resumed her teaching career at Bonita Charter.
In addition to teaching art, she was recruited to teach another class, Peer Counseling, which started as a fledgling program and which now has a waiting list.
Strell’s teaching background in student government and fundraising, positioned her as the perfect candidate for the Peer Counseling position.
The Banner asked Strell about her teaching duties.
The Banner: How do you feel about balancing two different teaching roles?
SS: I love my job — it is really unique. I’ve had many of the students in Art I and Art II, then I see them again in Peer Counseling; it’s great to have watched them come so far. I know I’ll be crying when they graduate. As the art teacher, I have the chance to participate in the larger school programs — doing banners and murals. We do many visual messages with art.
TB: How do you manage to fund some of your classroom projects?
SS: For one thing, our Principal, Ms. Tracy, is so supportive and that makes all the difference. During my second and third years of the six I have been teaching, I worked with the Guidance Counselor on writing a grant through Service Learning. That provided some funding for the program. We also did Peer Counseling fundraising for start up money. We sold T-shirts and other things to try to generate the funds for our projects.
TB: How does your day start?
SS: I start my day with homeroom then the students rotate through their classes. I teach two art classes, Art I and II and then I teach Peer Counseling to grades seven and eight and end up with my homeroom at the end of the day.
TB: What is the make-up of the Peer Counseling Class?
SS: It is a very hands on class. We are very active in the school and in the community. Basically, we are a service-based program, with students recommended by teachers from the previous year. As an elective, the class is popular.
TB: What are some of the criteria for acceptance into the program?
SS: Generally the students are high achievers, do well academically and are special or unique. They are goal oriented and want to be involved.
TB: What types of training material do you use?
SS: We use “Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teams,” which covers life goals and offers tips and strategies for surviving their teen years. We also focus on “Bullying Prevention.”
TB: What kinds of activities do you do with the seventh and eighth graders?
SS: With grade seven, we work on coping methods for issues that they may come up against; they’ve put on a puppet show and have taught lessons in the classrooms of our younger students. With the eighth graders, we worked on an environmental project for the entire first quarter. We made buttons to heighten the awareness of endangered animals. The students wore the buttons and sold them during lunch. With the funds raised, we joined World Wildlife Fund and adopted eight endangered animals.
TB: What were some of the animals adopted?
SS: An arctic fox, a polar bear, a panda, a lynx tiger, an emperor penguin and a snowy owl.
TB: What other activities did the eighth grade complete?
SS: We grew flowers and beatified the school. We also completed lessons on recycling. I had the students create wearable fashions from recycled materials of all types. We then held an assembly for our “Recycled Trashion Show,” and had the students walk a red carpet, wearing their creations. We will tie up the unit with a field trip to see the premiere of the Disney movie, “Earth,” at the Gulf Coast Town Center.
TB: What types of materials did they use to make the recycled fashions?
SS: They used newspapers, trash bags, aluminum foil and even yellow “caution” tape. They were really creative.
TB: Any other interesting units this past year?
SS: Yes, our eighth graders also had a unit on peer mediation. We explored the protocol for mediation and decided to have students work as pairs. Basically, they preside over and facilitate mediation between the students in the lower grades. If two students are having a problem, they can opt to sit before the mediators and air their gripes. The mediators then work to help the two come to a mutually acceptable solution and help them to learn how to problem solve. These are all very important life skills.
TB: Do you do community or outreach of any type?
SS: Yes, we do. I try to plan my programs thematically. In the second quarter, we focused on Relay for Life to help support and to bring awareness for The American Cancer Society. The students wore buttons, sold bracelets, and sold flowers on Valentine’s Day — all to support that important cause.
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