Meet the teacher: Leah Werner

QUESTIONS: Leah Werner answers a question from fourth-grader Landon Postema about multiplying fractions. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

QUESTIONS: Leah Werner answers a question from fourth-grader Landon Postema about multiplying fractions. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

BARRYTON — As a child, Leah Werner dreamt of launching into space as an astronaut, or capturing the perfect image as a photographer or penning an acclaimed book as an author. She did not dream of being a teacher.

However, in teaching Werner found her “perfect fit.”

“I’m not one of those people who wanted to be a teacher since they were little,” she said. “One day I really just woke up and thought I should try teaching. It’s been a perfect fit.”

A Chippewa Hills High School graduate herself, Werner has taught fourth and fifth grades at Barryton Elementary for the past 14 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Albion College and then spent the next three years teaching at Discovery School, a private school in Ohio.

“When my husband and I were ready to start a family of our own, we wanted to move home and be with our families,” she said. “The year I started teaching at Chippewa Hills was the year my daughter was born.”

EXTRA HELP: Leah Werner clarifies the steps in the fraction multiplication assignment for student Kirstin Sherman. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

EXTRA HELP: Leah Werner clarifies the steps in the fraction multiplication assignment for student Kirstin Sherman. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

Werner does more than just teach in the classroom, pointed out Principal Amanda Kimball.

“Mrs. Werner is more than just a teacher during the school day in Barryton,” Kimball said. “She is an active member of the community. Whether it is visiting with students and their families on the soccer field or participating in after-school events, she consistently brings a smile to every situation.”

An outside observer may wonder about spending year after year in fourth grade, working on never-ending multiplication tables, but Werner is quick to point out her job is different every single day.

“Even if you teach the same class — for example, I teach social studies for both fourth grades, and it’s always different, even in the same day, between the two groups,” she said. “The kids are different, with different questions, ideas and backgrounds, and it takes the discussion a different direction.”

Werner enjoys teaching and finds success in the achievements of her pupils.

“There was a student who came back to visit, who’s in high school now,” she recalled. “When he was here, he had such a tough time, with a lot of hard things happening in his home life.

“He’s doing so great now. He’s involved in the band and he was so proud to show us that. We showed him a different way to be and that’s why I do this job — to show the kids other opportunities they may not know about.”

Werner’s students are fans of her teaching style.

“She helps us and lets us move our seats when we want to,” said Isaac Toogood. “She’s nice.”

Added classmate Katelynne Walcutt, “She does a lot for us and I’m thankful for it.”

Students’ success also is celebrated by the entire class, whether it’s someone reaching a reading goal or passing a math facts test.

“Everyone has their own goals, and I think it’s important for the class to always celebrate everyone’s success,” she said. “We’re like a family in here — we care about each other. To me, the most important thing about the job is that you love kids.

“A lot of times things are extremely stressful and hard to deal with, but if you love the kids, that’s what matters. Everything else will fall into place.”

EXPLANATION: Fourth-grade teacher Leah Werner helps Brianna Cochran with a math assignment on multiplying fractions. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

EXPLANATION: Fourth-grade teacher Leah Werner helps Brianna Cochran with a math assignment on multiplying fractions. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

Most teachers do care deeply about their students, but Werner isn’t sure most people understand the depth of their attachment.

“I think people don’t know how emotionally invested we are in everything at school,” she said. “Teaching is intellectually challenging and emotionally draining. Our job is as much being a counselor, nurse, parent and a lot of other things as it is teaching. We’re not just passing out paper and pencils.”

The connections between teacher and student are obvious to Kimball.

“Mrs. Werner is a caring and compassionate teacher,” she said. “She is enthusiastic about each content area she teaches and motivates her students to do their best.

“The students and families of Barryton Elementary are lucky to have Mrs. Werner as a fourth-grade teacher. She goes above and beyond to build relationships with students and makes teaching and learning fun.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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