for evans, music livens lessons and keeps students focused
by shannon geis
in a funny way, it was a stint on cruise ship that allowed florence evans to fully understand her love of teaching.
the long island native had studied vocal performance at the manhattan school of music and taught music education at p.s. 166. but she had a dream of performing, and took a job on a cruise ship when the opportunity arose. once there, however, evans realized that she would rather be back in the classroom.
"i always knew i was either going to be a broadway performer or a teacher," said evans, 32.
she came back to new york city and began working in east harlem while taking graduate classes in early elementary education from bank street college of education. after spending two years on maternity leave, she took a job as a 1st-grade teacher at st. stephen of hungary. she enjoys the personal connection she forges with each student and has found that teaching 1st grade is much more rewarding than teaching music.
still, evans uses music in her classroom every day. songs are transitions between lessons and subjects, and her class sings while they put their books away or while they are going back to their seats. music is a better way to grab students' attention than raising her voice, she has found, and it helps them remember grammar and math rules.
"she is always singing, and now the whole school is singing," said mary rose vella, mother of one of evans' students. "my daughter has grown so much in evans' class. she is now reading chapter books."
evans has a knack for zeroing in on each student's academic needs, according to vella.
"she sees the weaknesses and the strengths and helps the students to improve," vella said.
evans said a big part of her approach is creating a sense of community in the classroom.
"we get together each morning and the students greet each other and share with each other before we start our lessons," she said. "i believe in collaboration, so my room is never silent. i like to hand things over to them and give them ownership of their learning."
evans' daughter, hannah, also attends the school and spends her days across the hall from her mother.
"it has been wonderful to be so close to my daughter while still being able to work," evans said. "the school has been very supportive."
evans and her husband, craig, who works at an accounting firm, have been married for seven years. they live in rockaway, where they enjoy spending time on the beach.
after testing a few career options, evans says she's finally found her place at st. stephen of hungary-and she hopes to be at the school for a long time.
"we're all here to give the kids the best education possible," she said. "that makes this a beautiful place to work and i'm glad to be here."
-- florence evans 1st grade, st. stephen of hungary