2019 Kansas Master Teacher Linda Vena
In 1975, Linda Vena began her career teaching first grade. More than 40 years later, Vena is still teaching, and she would have it no other way. “My [first grade] teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I chose to be a teacher. I never changed my mind.”
For most of her career, she served as a kindergarten or first-grade teacher. “She was the teacher who dressed up as the tooth fairy, turned centers into thematic events and made the everyday fun,” writes a colleague. Now a reading specialist, Vena “brings passion, fun and delight to the reading intervention space.” She has transformed the room into ‘Camp Read Aloud’ – complete with tents, flashlights, and treats to celebrate their learning.
Vena earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Pittsburg State University in 1975 and her master’s degree in elementary education from Northeastern State University in 1988. She completed her reading specialist certification from Emporia State University in 2003.
Though she works primarily with students who struggle to read and write, Vena also keeps an eye on the needs of the entire school. After evaluating the school’s overall reading scores, she noticed vocabulary skills were lacking across all grade levels. In response, she created a Vocabulary Catcher wall outside of her room. Students “catch” the words they do not know, bring them to Vena, and she adds the words and their definitions to the wall – a strategy that is impacting student learning across the building.
Vena continually seeks to find what will motivate each student—whether she is helping a student connect the idea that to play high school sports someday, you need to get in the habit of completing your homework, or simply displaying a kindergartener’s art work behind her desk.
Vena’s heart for education and commitment to children and families is apparent throughout her school community. A former student, who is now a teaching colleague, stated, “Linda’s love for teaching shines through every day.”