When students enter Shantee Trudo’s room at Brookfield Elementary School, they should expect to party. Hard.
“I’m the work hard, play har-der, with a whole bunch of Rs at the end,” she said.
Newly hired as an intervention specialist – she was a long-term substitute last year – Trudo deals with kids who have a disability or are struggling in some way. Some of them have challenges outside of school.
“These kids are my kids,” she said. “We do what we have to do, but we have fun. Some of them don’t get to have fun, and so this room is their safe place. Some of them call it their home. That’s what I want. I want them to learn as much (as they can), but I also want them to feel like they have someone.”
The 2012 Brookfield High graduate said she never wanted to come back home – until she had the opportunity.
“I want to be somewhere I’m comfortable,” said Trudo, who worked nearly two years at the Rich Center for Autism in Youngstown. “All of the teachers, I’ve had most of these teachers. They make sure you’re OK. I know nothing’s gonna happen to me here.”
One of the Kent State University graduate’s toughest adjustments has been to allow herself to be considered a peer to teachers she had growing up.
“The hardest part is calling them by their first names,” Trudo said. “I mess up still. Ms. Sniezek, she’ll forever be Ms. Sniezek. Can’t call her Pam. No, it’s not gonna work.”
The school board also recently hired Effie Starheim as a music teacher and Lauren Hrusovsky to teach eighth-grade math and science, technology, engineering and math.
Starheim comes from rival Hubbard, but she wanted to teach at Brookfield because of the small-town feel.
“I love the community aspect,” she said. “I kind of thrive off of that. I kind of like to be around people. I just like being part of a community.”
She started working her way into the community by helping out at band camp.
“The kids and I immediately just meshed together really well,” said Starheim, who graduated from Youngstown State University.
She said she will employ both traditional and nontraditional techniques in teaching music.
“I also want the kids to be able to have input in what they want to learn,” Starheim said. “For instance, I’m going to be teaching a creative music class, and I want to design my curriculum around something the kids are actually interested in. I don’t want to talk to them about chants or polyphonic versus monophonic. It’s gonna be a snooze-fest if I do that.”
Hrusovsky taught math for two years at Youngstown Community School and math, science and STEM for one year at Austintown before taking the Brookfield job.
“I’ve heard very great things about the school, how they support the community, staff, children, just heard wonderful things about here,” said the Cortland native. “Small school. Just wanted to be part of the team here. I’m hoping to make this my permanent home.”
The YSU grad described her teaching style as laid-back and carefree. She tries to reach her students in whatever way they learn best, she said.
To try to make math fun, Hrusovsky gets her students out of their seats to go on scavenger hunts, use manipulatives – objects that illustrate math concepts – and play games.
“Just sitting there and listening to me talk is not the best way to learn,” she said. “It doesn’t meet everybody’s needs.”
So students who like routines are not totally thrown off, “I have a daily routine, a daily five that we’ll do every day, five problems, Monday through Thursday, to get them warmed up, ready for the day,” Hrusovsky said. “I’ll do a little mini-lesson with them. and then I’ll go into an activity.”
Trudo will be paid $33,487; Starheim, $31,734; and Hrusovsky, $33,321.