Be the Change: Igniting the Learning Process

Much like football coaches, Natalie Lalaguna and Jessica Ditzler work to inspire, direct, educate, lead and organize – not on the field, but in the classroom.

Both are instructional coaches at Turtle Bay School in Redding. Natalie is a lifelong Northern California resident who has been teaching for 15 years, and Jessica is an 11-year teaching veteran and Shasta County native.

“As instructional coaches we mentor new teachers, provide reading and math interventions, lead collaborations, and help empower teachers to continually learn and improve,” explains Natalie. They also provide enrichment for students.

Turtle Bay School’s principal, AJ Anderson, and its vice principal, Jennifer Severin, both believe that having instructional coaches on staff is invaluable. “The instructional coaches review data, implement intervention services, and collaborate with teachers and support staff,” says Severin. “But above all, they focus on encouraging our students to be successful.”

“Natalie and Jessica are not only knowledgeable,” adds Anderson, “but they have a genuine passion and desire to help children succeed that is infectious. When you combine their knowledge with their passion, it benefits our entire school community.”

We asked Jessica and Natalie a few questions:

What inspired you to teach?

JD: When I was young, I had two social studies teachers that really ignited my passion for history: Shelly Carson (now Shelly Craig) and Suzanne Wren. Entering Shasta College, my passion continued with US history and government and I became a political science major. After my first year, I realized that I wanted to spark that passion for history in others, just as my teachers had done for me. I later majored in history at University of California, Davis, where I also earned my single subject social studies credential. Shortly into my teaching career I realized I not only had a love of history but also a passion for making connections with kids. Ultimately, it is this passion that has kept me teaching high school, junior high and elementary school students.

NL: My mom has been an inspiration, having taught continuation school for 38 years. Every Christmas I would read cards from past students and see how she truly made a difference in their lives. She always saw the good in each of her students and believed in them. Every child deserves that – no matter how difficult they might be or how hard their circumstances have been. I also want to have a positive impact in a child’s life.

In your opinion, what is the most important piece of wisdom to impart to the youth of today?

JD: I think it would be that with hard work you can achieve your dreams. It may take longer than you want it to, and it might not always be fun, but hard work and perseverance are the way to get there.

NL: A smile, making eye contact, and saying ‘hello’ goes a long way. People are relational; we need to foster kindness and connectivity.

What is your favorite quote?

JD: A few years ago I used this quote to launch my junior high classes: “It is our choices … that show who we truly are – far more than our abilities.” This was said by Professor Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Ultimately, it’s the decision to be the best that we can be that counts.

NL: “Those who are happy, make others happy too,” by Anne Frank.

Do you have any advice for parents?

JD: Read and talk to your child as often as you can when they are young; it helps to build their vocabulary. When your child can read independently, take the time to sit in the same room and read a book while they are reading; this shows them that adults read too. Ask your child probing questions. When they are little, talk about the colors of their clothing. When they are a bit older, put them in charge of checking off the grocery list. Talk them through it: “We just put milk in the cart … can you find milk on the list? What letter would it start with?” When they are school age and doing their homework, ask them how they knew the answer to a math problem; what strategy did they use? Any time you can make your child think is an opportunity for learning.

NL: I believe in the value of the Shasta Early Literacy Project initiative “Take 10 and Do it Again” – the benefits of at least 20 minutes of nightly reading with your child are immeasurable! Not only does it show your child that you value reading, it’s practicing reading skills, developing vocabulary and comprehension. It’s a small time commitment for a huge payoff.

Skye Kinkade
About Skye Kinkade

Skye Kinkade is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and mother of four lively children. She enjoys being part of a close-knit community that is so generous and kind in difficult times.

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