Linda O'Neill, Teacher of the Month for October 2012
ELK GROVE, CA - A career in social work is where she started, but it didn't take long for Linda O'Neill to figure out, teaching a classroom full of kindergartners is where she belonged.
As a child, O'Neill struggled with her parents divorce.
"I had some teachers growing up when I was a little girl that made my life better," O'Neill explained.
At the time, the classroom seemed like the only safe place to turn, but it was a teacher who had the biggest impact.
"She would take the time to talk with me everyday, she made sure I felt really special about all the things that I did," said the mother of three. "She also helped my parents, which I think is part of our job, to work with families as well."
It's an experience that shaped O'Neill's path and inspired her to make a difference in the lives of thousands of students.
"I think its our job to teach them to be lifelong learners and to love learning," O'Neill said.
After 20 years in the classroom, the high energy teacher admits she has found a rhythm that seems to work.
"I think it has to look like we are having fun, look like a happy place and a safe place," O'Neill said with a smile.
In a classroom filled with four and five year olds, the kindergarten teacher spends part of her day singing, dancing and getting her students prepared for first grade.
"That's our job in kindergarten, to teach them to love school so they want to come here everyday."
In addition to good attitude about education, setting a foundation for learning some of the most important lessons in life is just as important.
"Correcting has to be positive," O'Neill explained. "If there is a problem in the classroom, it's really important that they know if they do make a mistake, they can go on."
"I never get angry," O'Neill added. "It is more like, 'let's try that again,' because they have to know they can take chances."