When the summer months are over and the new school year is approaching, Juanita Guetzow gets her mind ready for what she sees as a new adventure.
Guetzow is a fourth grade teacher at Stuart Place Elementary School, and embarking on her sixth year as a teacher she’s seen her classroom philosophy change over the years.
“It’s changed almost every year,” said Guetzow. “At first it was that our students will change the world, but now it’s more of a focus on the child and how we can support them to succeed. The approach is always different and it depends on the year’s group of students and their needs.”
The road to teaching began in college for Guetzow as she studied education, but made a slight detour into airline service for ten years. It wasn’t until after events in 2001 that she decided to help others while using her previous received education. Since then she’s served as an educator in San Benito and at the University of Texas at Brownsville before making her move to the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District six years ago, she said.
“As a little girl, I always heard about Harlingen and that it had one of the best school district’s in the Valley,” said Guetzow. “After I started working her, I would tell anyone who would listen how happy I was. Our former principal, Vivian Bauer Principal at Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy, would ask when the honeymoon period was going to be over. I would tell her never. I’m always going to be happy to be here for Harlingen students.
Her methods in her classroom at Stuart take inspiration from her time working with adults in Brownsville. Incorporating plenty of what she calls “brain breaks” for her students is a necessity. Breaks tend to include a lot of movement which helps get her students’ minds ready for the next lesson. They also work on helping others succeed throughout the year.
“Along with our brain breaks we try and focus on students sharing their knowledge with one another,” said Guetzow. “They learn from each other and participate in peer tutoring. It’s more difficult to team someone than it is to do. When the students teach their peers they are getting better at whatever they are going over.”
With the incorporation of peer tutoring, brain breaks and customized learning, Guetzows’ ultimate goal is to focus on learning skills them will benefit students during their year in fourth grade and beyond while developing leadership qualities, she said. Even after they leave her classroom she hopes the lessons remain, as she will always see them as her students.
“I think every teacher still thinks of students they’ve taught as their students,” said Gutzow. “Whenever I see them, even if they are seniors in high school, they will always be my fourth grade student. Although at this point they will be a lot taller and more experience.”