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Kindergarten teacher takes district’s top honor

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaapppeal.com
Shannon Litz / Nevada AppealBordewich-Bray Elementary School kindergarten teacher Michele Cacioppo helps students with a project last Thursday.
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When a position for kindergarten teacher opened at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School eight years ago, Michele Cacioppo was happy as a stay-at-home mom.

She had taught nearly four years in California after graduating from Chico State University, but had given it up to raise her children. She kept connected to teaching through volunteer work in her church and other community organizations, and was active in the parent-teacher association where her children attended school.

But the more she heard about the job, the more her interest was piqued. So she applied, and eight years later, calls it “the best decision of her life.”

“I’m so glad I took the job,” she said.

So are her students.

“She’s gooder than any teacher,” said Lilian Mariolo, 6. “We never want to leave this class.”

And it’s not only the students who think so. Cacioppo was named the Carson City School District’s Teacher of the Year at last week’s school board meeting. She was chosen from among teachers selected as Teacher of the Year at each of the sites.

“It’s a complete honor,” she said. “I feel so humbled.”

Cheryl Macy, English teacher at Carson High School, was named last year’s Teacher of the Year for the Carson City School District then went on to win the same distinction for the entire state.

Cacioppo said teachers don’t expect rewards for what they do.

“The things I do in my classroom, I do because they’re the right thing to do,” she said.

A year back into teaching, Cacioppo’s class transitioned from half-day kindergarten to a full day. Although it is a challenge, she routinely changes activities every 15 minutes to keep students engaged, she said she still loves it as much as she did the first day.

“I love kindergarten,” she said. “I love the growth that you see in kindergarten from when they walk in the door hardly knowing any letter sounds to reading full sentences. You see that light bulb go on.”

She said her principal objective each year is to instill in the children a passion for reading. With each new milestone they achieve, the class done one of several cheers in their repertoire.

Quinn Caferretta-Jenkins, 6, understands the importance of the skills he’s acquiring.

“I learned to read so I could learn about everything,” he said.

The key, Cacioppo said, is finding the right way to teach each child. Rather than recycle lesson plans year after year, she tailors them to every class.

Being a mom has helped her with that ability.

She said each of her three children – Tony, 15, Sabrina, 14 and Sophia, 10 – learn in different ways.

“One struggles, one really needs to know the reasons why and one needs to be challenged,” she explained. “My kids really taught me to be a better teacher.”

When she’s not at school, Cacioppo like spending time with her husband, Joe, and her children camping, fishing, hiking an boating.

She’s also an avid runner, recently completing a 32-mile endurance race in seven-and-a-half hours.

“I’m determined,” she said. “It’s in my personality. I’m dedicated and passionate about things whether it be running, my family or teaching.”

But she has fun along the way, too.

“I love my job,” she said. “Where else can you sing and dance, and they don’t care what you sound like?”

Teachers selected as Teacher of the Year at other schools throughout the district were:

Jacqueline Geraets Rauh, Fremont Elementary School

Christine Stieber, Fritsch Elementary School

Julie Mobley, Empire Elementary School

Melodie Skudlarek, Seeliger Elementary School

Joan Emehiser, Mark Twain Elementary School

Cherie Mathis, Eagle Valley Middle School

Beth Prause, Professional Development Center

Anna Province, Carson High School

Kim Whisler, Carson Middle School