Norwalk’s Angela Housley wanted to be a teacher since her own elementary school days. Her dream came true and her impact on hundreds of Norwalk students has earned her recognition as Norwalk’s Teacher of the Year by the Norwalk Area Chamber of Commerce.
Housley was honored at the Chamber’s 27th Annual Awards Celebration on January 24 at Echo Valley Country Club.
Housley grew up on the East Side of Des Moines, near Grandview University, and her childhood goal was to attend GrandView and become a teacher. She achieved both and today, as a
kindergarten teacher at Orchard Hills/Oviatt Elementary School, Housley leads 21 students daily in a curriculum that includes reading, math, science, phonics and social studies.
“I always played school growing up,” Housley said. “I made my brother be the student and I had a whole miniature classroom set up at home, complete with supplies like overhead transparencies and papers and materials that a real teacher was recycling and offered them to anyone who wanted them and, of course, I did.”
Today Housley’s classroom is a colorful, lively space at Orchard Hills, with clusters of small desks for five- and six-year-olds, shelves of plastic bins students’ supplies, and a patterned carpet marking a spot for group discussions. The district’s 13 full-day kindergarten classes are meeting at Orchard Hills for the school year while remodeling is under way at Oviatt.
“I love teaching kindergartners because they love coming to school and I love making learning fun for them,” she says, adding that Norwalk kindergartners have returned from their winter break excited for learning and often after using their new skills over break.
The kindergarten curriculum, developed by the State of Iowa, is designed to prepare students for first grade and students must be able to read upon finishing the kindergarten year. Skill in reading is enhanced as the students also learn phonics by sounding out letters and works and develop writing skills by combining everything they are learning. “Students start by writing short sentences, such as ‘I like tacos,” words they can sound out,” she said. “Eventually, even in kindergarten, they add a few more words and they are successfully reading and writing and enjoying it.”
Social studies is another aspect of the curriculum, surprising for kindergartners, yet critical in helping them grow and build responsible behaviors. “In Social studies in kindergarten we talk about community, we talk about family and we talk about getting along with others and this helps them understand the world around them,” Housley says.
Now in her 13th year of teaching, the current school year represents a change for Housley, the first year she won’t be a “looping teacher” who leads the same class of students in both kindergarten and first grade. She’s completed six loops in past years and those early students are now high school seniors.
Besides leading her own classroom, Housley heads a Professional Learning Group with five other kindergarten educators in the district who get together regularly to discuss their work with the students, determine how well the classroom experience is meeting state standards and collaborate on ideas for learning.
On top of her commitment to her class and the district, Housley is investing time in herself: currently working on a master’ degree in curriculum leadership and instruction through Buena Vista University. She already holds state endorsements in reading and early childhood education.
Housley and her husband John have two sons: Gavin, a fifth grader at Lakewood, and Tanner, a sixth grader at the Middle School. John coaches the boys’ team in the Norwalk Twin Rivers Baseball program.
Busy Housley has one other interest: she creates original wall and door hangings as Hangings from the Heart, designs in burlap and trimmings which she sells via Facebook postings, a project she somehow finds the time for.
Now her full and busy life has been recognized by her teacher and administration staff, her family and her students and their parents. “I feel extremely honored that I was awarded Teacher of the Year and I feel strongly that its support from our school leadership, leaders like Sheila Taylor and Rodney Martinez and the teachers I teach with every day and the students I get to be with daily that makes this possible, “she said.