Ken and Chrissy Coughran and their daughter, Mady, nominated Della Cooper for Class Acts. Mady says Cooper is an awesome teacher. She makes learning fun by doing exciting science experiments, integrating craft activities in social studies and telling American Indian legends.
Name: Della Cooper
Occupation: Fourth-grade teacher at Discovery Math-Science Magnet School at Walnut Elementary Education Center.
Family: One son, Bryce Duzan, who is 19 and a Modesto Junior College drama major.
Background: I was born in Montana, raised in Washington state, and moved to California 11 years ago. I moved to Turlock nine years ago for the math-science teaching position.
Teaching experience: I received my teaching degree from Western Washington University. I went on to get my master's degree from Antioch University in Seattle. I substitute taught for about four years in Washington and San Marcos. I was offered the position of fourth-grade teacher at the math-science magnet 8½ years ago.
Why did you get into teaching? I knew in my soul I was born to be a teacher one day. My son was about 2 years old, I was a single mom, and I decided I would love to have vacation time with him. I owned an accounting firm at that time, sold it, and went on to get my teaching degrees. I knew he would be my only child and I wanted the opportunity to spend as much time with him as I possibly could and still support us.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? I really enjoy seeing the "light bulb" go on and a student really understanding something. I also love science and creating hands-on lessons.
What is the most challenging part of your job? Finding ways to motivate students who are already turned off to learning. It is heartbreaking to have 9- and 10-year-olds who already have no desire to learn.
Favorite teaching tool or activity in the classroom: Friday fun science is my favorite activity, where we fill out our interactive science journals and I perform some amazing science magic for my class. I really love chemistry and am always looking for a new way to show my students the magic of science through it.
What's next in your classroom? About the middle of January we will receive our chinook salmon eggs, which we will raise for about three months. My partner teacher and I have designed an intensive salmon unit, which crosses all subjects and takes us through March. It is exciting to watch our salmon hatch and grow into fry before we release them into the river.
Advice for new teachers: Find a school where you really "fit" and hang on with both hands, because finding a staff that you can really work with is far more important than anything else.
Advice for students: Enjoy learning and make it a lifetime goal. Learn something new every day and appreciate what a wonderful gift that truly is.
Advice for parents: Be a parent. Your child has enough friends, what they really need is someone to set their boundaries and not let them pass them without consequences.
COMPILED BY JILLIAN HANKS,
BEE NEWSROOM ASSISTANT