Small-town district allows Isaac to form relationships with students

Fourth-grade teacher Steph Isaac has been teaching for the MCSD since 1992. She said working for a small-town district allows her to get to know her students and their families. Here, Isaac works with Associate Traysa Orcutt as students demonstrate how electrical currents work. Front from left is Grant Gassman, Orcutt, Haley McElmeel, and Isaac. Standing in back is Lane Weber. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     Steph Isaac’s teaching career has come full circle. After growing up in Monticello and attending the MCSD herself, Isaac has now been teaching here for 25 years. Her two daughters also graduated from the district.

     In Isaac’s first year teaching in Monticello, she taught summer school at Four Oaks. Then she taught fifth grade on a part-time basis at Carpenter Elementary School. She explained Joyce Johnson, a then-fifth-grade teacher, had a baby and the district allowed both Johnson and Isaac to teach part-time.

     “I taught afternoon reading and language arts,” recalled Isaac.

     Isaac then took a leave of absence for a few years as her own children came through Carpenter School and became a caretaker for a sick family member.

     “I took some time off because I didn’t want to teach my own kids,” explained Isaac.

     Wanting to return to the education field, Isaac came back and taught second grade for a year at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

     Now, she’s a fourth-grade teacher back at Carpenter.

     Isaac said the way things used to be structured for fourth grade, teachers only had their home-room class and never saw or interacted with other fourth graders. Now, the three fourth grader teachers each have their own core (home-room) class, as well as rotating classes for such subjects as math, reading, language arts, etc. In addition to her core class, Isaac also teaches math and social studies.

     “I always knew I wanted to work with children,” she said of becoming a teacher. “I’ve always enjoyed children.”

     Isaac said at one point, she considered becoming a pediatric nurse, but wasn’t sure she could take on the emotions that come with caring for sick children. However, she said those same emotions come into play a lot as a teacher.

     Isaac earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Mercy University. She majored in elementary education special endorsements in reading and early childhood. She also minored in Spanish.

     Early in her teaching career here, Isaac took on coaching positions for high school softball, JV volleyball, and middle school basketball and volleyball.

     “That was all before I had children and had the free time,” she joked.

     Working for a small school district like Monticello, Isaac said it’s nice getting to know her students and their families.

     “You can establish relationships with everyone for long periods of time,” she said.

     Isaac said it’s also surreal to now see children of kids she used to teach come through the district.

     “Some times that longevity helps when you’re familiar with the families, and the students feel comfortable coming to me with a problem,” she said.

     Above all, Isaac said as an educator, her mission to help each student become as successful as possible.

     “We give those kids who are struggling or falling behind some extra time in the classroom,” she explained. “The inclusion is part of the core classroom.”

     Isaac has also seen technology play a huge role in the classroom, more so now than in the past.

     “In 1992 we didn’t have computers in the classroom, and now we’re ready for one-on-one technology with every student,” she said of the MCSD’s 1:1 district, where every student has access to a computer/laptop/iPad.

     She said living and being active in the community also allows her to see her former students succeed as they evolve through their education.

     “It’s neat to see what these kids go on to do and who they become,” she said. Another benefit of working in a smaller school district.

     When Isaac isn’t teaching and during her summers, she and her husband Steve spend time with their daughters, Dani and Kate. Dani is a junior at the University of Iowa, double majoring in nursing and Spanish. Kate is a freshman at UI, triple majoring in business, marketing, and finance.

     “I also enjoy reading, being outdoors, and going to Hawkeye games,” Isaac shared.


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