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Licking Heights

Daniels puts her 'whole heart' into educating first-graders

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Licking Heights West Elementary School first-grade teacher Rhonda Daniels was surprised in her classroom last week with a Licking County Foundation Leaders for Learning Award.

Licking Heights West Elementary School first-grade teacher Rhonda Daniels said she is passionate that any first-grade student can achieve great things at his or her own level.

"All students can learn, no matter how they come to you," Daniels said.

That passion helped earn her a Licking County Foundation Leaders for Learning Award presented last week to teachers in each district in the county.

Daniels was the award winner from Licking Heights.

According to a foundation press release, Daniels' teaching focuses on the abilities of individual students and she "maintains the highest expectations, both academically and behaviorally. She believes all students can learn and strives every day to build the foundation for future learning that is so important in first grade."

According to the release, Daniels also participates in professional-development activities and helps develop curriculum.

Daniels said all first-graders are expected to abide by the same curriculum, no matter how prepared they are when entering the first grade and regardless of how they learn as individuals.

In fact, she said, some teachers are so adamant about bringing some children up to speed, more advanced learners "fall through the cracks."

That's not the case in her class. Daniels said she tailors learning programs to many different levels of learning for all her first-graders.

"Every child in the room can learn and every child deserves to be challenged and stretched academically," she said.

Daniels said creating many learning plans is a lot more work for her, but, "you get a lot more reward for it."

With encouragement, the students will "rise up to your expectations," Daniels said.

She said children should never be confined in learning and they should all have the opportunity to learn at whatever level for which they are ready.

"I do put my whole heart into my job," Daniels said. "There is no other job for me."