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Welcome to Ms. Nonnenmann’s Classroom

20 January 2023

Ms. Nonnenmann has already learned so much during her first year of teaching. 

Ms. Nonnenmann

Ms. Rebecca Nonnenmann says that’s never had first-day jitters quite like the first day of school this year at Fiske Elementary School in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Not only was it her first year at Fiske, but it was also her first year teaching and her first time living in Chicago. 

Her nervousness quickly turned to excitement, and, with a semester now behind her, she feels certain that this will be a great first year for her. 

“When you’re in college, you gain an education and valuable experience, but it’s a completely different feeling to be able to call a classroom your own,” said Ms. Nonnenmann. “Each day, I get a little more confident and grow a little more, and I get to share that with my students. We have such a tight bond because we are learning and growing together.” 

Ms. Nonnenmann explains that her desire to become a teacher started long before she entered college. Being the oldest of many of her cousins meant that she was often tasked with being a babysitter and grew to love working with kids. 

She also grew up loving being in the school environment, especially her reading classes. Her time in college cemented her passion for working with kids. And now she’s come full circle with her own interests as a student by working as Fiske’s fourth- and fifth-grade English language arts teacher. 

While she didn’t waver too far from her dream career growing up, Ms. Nonnenmann will be the first to tell you that it’s impossible for your experiences in college to fully prepare you for being an educator. Since she serves multiple grade levels, she notes this is the first time she has experienced classes that rotate in and out of her classroom. 

This has implored her to collaborate with other teachers to develop effective classroom management strategies. Something that has worked well is her “Bucket Fillers” approach, where each class works toward a prize by filling a bucket with small pom poms they receive for good behavior. Setting these goals for each class allows Ms. Nonnenmann to build a personal relationship with each group of students, allowing them to get to know her on a deeper level. 

A board with buckets on it

“I think my students would say that I’m very enthusiastic and can be really fun and silly with them, but they also know that I have high expectations for them and want them to succeed,” said Ms. Nonnenmann. “My students will sometimes overthink things or get stuck, and I want to help them see that anything is possible if they set their mind to it.” 

One of her favorite memories from the school year so far has involved her buckets. Her homeroom class was reading a story about a scavenger hunt so, when they filled their bucket and earned extra recess, Ms. Nonnenmann and her special education classroom assistant set up a scavenger hunt around the school’s playground with clues that connected back to the vocabulary words the students were learning. She will never forget the joy and excitement she saw on their faces as they figured out the clues. 

Another good opportunity for Ms. Nonnenmann to shape her students’ perspectives is coming up over the next few weeks as she begins to teach them about identifying the theme of a book. She knows that it can be tricky making the transition from learning how to read to understanding the more conceptual parts of reading and writing, but she’s committed to working diligently to help her students understand what an author is trying to teach them and how they can apply those lessons to their lives. 

It’s unlikely that Ms. Nonnenmann will have the same level of first-day jitters in the years to come since she won’t be a new face at Fiske any longer. And, since she’s learned so much from her first year of teaching, she now has the opportunity to be a resource for new teachers who will follow in her footsteps.

“I think the number one thing that new teachers need to keep in mind is that things are going to work out,” said Ms. Nonnenmann. “There are so many unknowns when you are just getting started. But, now that I’m here, I feel established, I’m confident, and, above anything else, I love my students.” 

Fiske Elementary School building

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