For this teacher, service-learning is “guided curiosity”
Joanna Bottaro thinks of service-learning as “guided curiosity,” a way to bring out students’ innate interests in order to develop lifelong learners. “It gives students a reason to learn and gets them involved in something new and exciting. With the core curriculum we don’t get into anything in real depth, and service-learning can become the theme through which you can do that while also incorporating all the [academic] areas.”
Last year, Joanna worked with 8th graders at the Jackson School in South Philadelphia. This year she is teaching a 5th grade class at the McCall School at 7th and Spruce. Big changes with regard to student age and school location.
Because of these differences, she finds her current students more sheltered than the previous group. Consequently she has been cautious about delving into the more volatile topics that attracted the older students. When this class expressed their desire to explore the issues of poverty and urban blight, she felt these were concerns she could appropriately tackle with them.
As an experienced Network member (a teacher who has completed the two-year training period), Joanna values participating in peer sharing sessions and other events, such as the annual Teacher Soiree. “The Network,” she says, “is a real professional community. It’s been one of the best professional development opportunities I’ve had. I’ve gotten to know great teachers who I would not have otherwise met. You have these experiences in common with this group of people. They root you on, share ideas – it’s group work that makes teaching fun. NID is very respectful of us and makes sure our time is well spent.”