"She helped me read and write and got me more and more inspired," said former student Fiona Goe who is currently a fifth grader at Park Hill Elementary. "I wrote a 54-page novel!"
Goe recalls as if it were yesterday when Ms. Levy told her class: "If you learn to read and write, the opportunities are your own."
At the start of the school year at Park Hill Elementary, Levy focuses on letters and the sounds they make. When forming and spelling words, the kids are encouraged to think of sounds in familiar words or the names of friends. The class reads together a lot.
"I have a collection of books that we'll read and re-read, " said Levy. "Eventually, the kids will kind of know the story by heart and then, they can re-tell the story. Sometimes they get to act out the story using props. I think when you make the reading come to life, it really gives the children the purpose for reading. In the kitchen area in our room, there are cookbooks so the children can draw a picture of a recipe or draw a recipe. That's purposeful for what they do at home."
That is one of the ways Levy stresses to the children that reading and writing are not just things they will do at school.
Levy not only wants her students to be literate. She hopes they share her love for reading and writing.
That desire is enthusiastically present throughout her classroom which is bright yellow and decorated with banners that say "LEARNSTRONG."
Her "LEARNSTRONG" theme is a take-off of "LIVESTRONG," the mantra and name of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
"I tell the children that if you can LEARNSTRONG and LIVESTRONG, you can have a good life. I stress to them that learning is the key to living an independent life," Levy said.
Levy welcomes her kindergarteners every year with a photo session. She has the children dress in bright yellow "LEARNSTRONG" shirts. The kids also wear graduation caps on their heads. That picture then becomes the cover of the notebook that will be used throughout the year. It serves as a daily reminder of what they can achieve.
"The photograph implants the idea that 'I want to graduate, I want to go to college, I want to go past college and learn as much as I can,'" said Levy.
Tonda Potts, PhD, is the principal at Park Hill and was among those who wrote nomination forms for this stand-out educator. She is most impressed with how much personal time Levy spends to make sure the learning experience is the best it can be for the children.
"Renee demonstrates her caring in the summer before school beings. She spends weeks arranging visits to every student's home. She creates individual bookbags for each child with 'just-right' books for independent reading time; a writing center that includes greeting cards, poems, songs and art supplies; and a bed in which the kids can read."
Levy not only has a positive impact on her students but their families as well.
"Renee has shown her love for my family over, and over and over again," said Michele Horn, whose four children were taught by Levy.
"All of my children are adopted from China, and she always incorporated their heritage into the classroom. The last adoption we had was a 5-year-old boy who came into her class almost immediately after arriving in the United States. Renee welcomed him with open arms despite his language difficulties. By the end of the year, he was speaking English and reading English."
After watching Levy for a day in her class, she is warm and calm yet fun and exciting to watch. Most of all, her sincerity shines through.
"I still have the inner child in me. I think my classroom reflects it. I hope to give these children the life skills they need to enjoy life."
To nominate a teacher for the "9Teachers Who Care" program: