For over 30 students in her Pre-K classrooms and remote instruction, Stacy Koncor continues to be a critical introduction to the love of routine learning. Stacy and the rest of the pre-K faculty at Ottawa serve as a foundational building block in the lives of around 190 students, not counting those on the extensive waiting list for their program. Whether through the philosophy of learning through play or parental inclusion to enrich the learning experience for her students, Stacy is committed to fostering lifelong learning habits in the minds of the district’s most impressionable student contingent.
Because Every Day is Different
Now in her 14th year at Ottawa, Stacy reflects on her background and her start as a teacher’s aide when we sit down to chat with her. Her ESL (English as a Second Language) certification sets her apart in serving students with specific needs. As a Northern Illinois University graduate with a unique Pre-K specialization, her qualifications, experience, and overall love of the work make her a valuable gift to the district.
“I think it’s because every day is different,” she says when asked what she loves about her job. “We do the same routine, we do the same thing. I’m very routine-oriented,” she explains, “but every day is different. Nothing’s gonna happen the same. We’re never bored.” For Stacy, witnessing a child experience something for the first time is a reward unto itself. “Especially when you see a kiddo get it for the first time, even at their age,” she adds.
Stacy’s classroom sees a wide variety of students and specific needs. Aside from working with ESL students, she also engages with at-risk students and students with Individualized Education Programs. “We have the nonverbal ones that, you know, have big emotions,” she says. “It’s not always sunshine and rainbows in our class, but you have to learn how to help them on top of some kids that are reading at their age level. So we’re all the way down to the bottom going all the way to the top.” The focus in Stacy’s classes is learning through play, emphasizing parent activities to further augment a student’s learning at home. “It kind of helps parents be excited because they might not have had good experiences with school,” she says. “So if we can get good experiences with their kids early, then we feel that kind of helps them for the future.”
She loves her “tight-knit” group of co-workers and credits them with always providing “a buddy to lean on, especially when you’re having a bad day.” “We have some tough days in preschool,” Stacy says. “It’s not just coloring and playing. We’re doing academics, and it’s a lot of hard stuff.” However, regardless of how difficult the day becomes, there’s always someone on the pre-K team to confide in. “We’ve pretty much all been there and we know who we can talk to about what, and we always have each other’s backs,” she says.
Stacy says she’d tell herself to start her career earlier if she could speak to a younger, past self. “I didn’t start in this career right away,” she says, “because I didn’t think it was possible.” Despite when she started, she’s no doubt made a terrific impact as the first line of contact for students in their formative years. We thought she couldn’t top her overwhelming demonstrations of dedication to Ottawa’s Pre-K students, but then she reveals what she’d wish for if she had access to a magic wand. “I would build us a new preschool,” she says without hesitation. “Hands down. I would build us an early childhood building for preschool, kindergarten, just so we can have our own everything for us and what we need.” We can’t think of a better use for a magic wand, and we know that in the absence of one, Stacy will spend another 14 years and hopefully longer helping Ottawa’s pre-K students fall in love with learning.