First grade teacher Rebecca Van Hook shows up to work early and goes home late, going above and beyond for her Glebe Elementary School students.
“I’ve fallen in love with first grade,” says the Arlington educator, who has been teaching there for 10 years. “I just love how much they grow within that one year.”
She creates a welcoming environment and offers extensive learning opportunities. When Van Hook sees students reading below grade level, she uses her own time, resources, and energy to develop multiple reading platforms for them.
“Both of my granddaughters began first grade with some reluctance and difficulty in learning to read. Through Ms. Van Hook’s attention, both now feel confident, love to read, and cherish books,” says Fran Clay, a grandmother of several of Van Hook’s former students. “When one enters her classroom, a sense of joy and love of learning is immediately apparent — nothing is more important for early learners.”
In addition to dynamic reading instruction during school hours, Van Hook assembles individualized weekly bags of practice items that include reading games, word games, and books from her own library. She even hosts small group reading sessions weekdays before school and gives her students opportunities to share their favorite books with their classmates. She encourages them to write notes to each other to share their feelings, helping them both express their thoughts and work on writing down those thoughts.
“[My son’s] reading and writing skills jumped leaps and bounds in Ms. Van Hook’s classroom,” says Liz Newman, a parent who is also the PTA president.
Parents see the effort Van Hook makes and appreciate her giftedness working with children.
“Our daughter is inspired each and every day and, more importantly, is excited to go to school and learn,” says parent Ilyssa Clay. “Ms. Van Hook has a way of tapping into each student’s unique talent and making them feel special and confident.”
With an undergraduate degree from Longwood University and a master’s degree in special education from George Mason University, Van Hook uses her skills to encourage students. Part of her recipe for success is customized communication with parents.
“I do try my very best to go above and beyond when I am communicating with families,” she says. “I think it makes their job easier, and I think it makes my job easier.”
Parents say Van Hook is perfectly suited to wrangle a herd of first graders into learning and caring for one another.
“There are 22 Arlington first graders [this year] who have been nurtured, developed, and shown tremendous growth due to her above-and-beyond efforts,” says parent Bridget Wilson.
Feature image by Jeff Heeney