“Students can enter a classroom each morning knowing they are loved, expecting to learn, read, discuss, write, compute, think, perhaps sing, jump and even laugh.”
Fourth Grade Math, Science, Latin, Literature, History, Theology, Grammar Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in Alexandria, VA
Nominated by Mary Radcliffe:
“Molly Leithart embodies a delightful and joyous love of learning that captures the minds and imaginations of her fourth-grade students. It is a wonderful experience to witness Molly’s classroom joyfully abuzz as students enthusiastically learn poetry — just imagine learning Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” complete with jumping up on chairs and then down to the ground. Or to witness as they explore history and architecture in teams and create their own replicas of famous buildings. She has a wonderful ability of engaging her students in each new project and subject.
“Molly also takes on leadership roles within the ILS community, serving as the lower school lead teacher. This year, she helped introduce a new aspect to the lower school experience: a house system, complete with competitions and lunches with integrated grades. Also, as a talented musician, singer and dancer herself, Molly directs student musical theater numbers for the annual talent show. She is an enthusiastic and inspiring teacher, a wonderful leader and overall, a tremendous asset to the ILS community! We are blessed to have her.”
Q&A with Molly A. Barnett
Why do you think teachers are important?
In an otherwise ever-changing and unpredictable world, certain aspects of familiarity and constancy help to anchor our lives and order our days in peace, turning us to what is higher and enduring. Knowledge lovingly imparted may be forgotten, but love directs the students to their end. Students can enter a classroom each morning knowing they are loved, expecting to learn, read, discuss, write, compute, think, perhaps sing, jump and even laugh. Teachers not only share wonderment of the art they teach, but they motivate and support each child. And this, in my opinion, is of the noblest of work of our time.
What is the single best piece of advice you can give parents of fourth-graders?
Let them be children, but guide them into adulthood. Fourth-graders are easily excited during classes. They participate readily and love to laugh and play. Their minds and bodies are also rapidly growing, and it’s amazing to see how much they can memorize and recall. Witnessing this impressive cognitive activity, however, might wrongfully lead us adults to think that they need more stimulation or challenge. But they also need to be bored and think up a game, or splash in puddles left over from last night’s thunderstorm. In other words, they need to be children. And while they often emote about the injustices of childhood (bed times, yucky healthy food, etc.), they need this sort of love to lead them into the joys of adulthood.
What’s your funniest teaching moment?
My first year teaching at ILS was special in many regards, and in part because of the spectacular group of students I taught. During one wintry month when stuffy noses were aplenty, every present student breathed with some audible difficulty. I could not speak a full sentence without a sneeze, sniffle or cough interrupting the flow of words! One clever student uttered, “Ah, the ‘Sound of Mucus.’” And with that, the entire class, including myself, burst into uproarious laughter.
How can parents and teachers work together to empower and engage children?
This question is definitely an important one in education, and I appreciate how our school actively seeks parental involvement throughout the year. From sending home weekly newsletters that include what we are learning to calling parents in order to share a positive story from the day, we want to emphasize the unified efforts in educating children. In this way, children know that their parents are on the teacher’s team, and we’re all working together for the good of the child. I think there is comfort there for everyone involved.
Finish this sentence: If I weren’t teaching, I’d be … jobless.