February 27, 2016 | by admin |

Deanna Scelzo grew up in Dowagiac, MI located in southwest lower Michigan.  She attended Western Michigan University where she obtained her bachelor's degree in elementary education, and a minor in physical education. For nine years, Deanna Scelzo taught middle school on the west side of South Bend, Indiana. Her students were multiculturally diverse and came from a poor socioeconomic area. Teaching in an inner-city school is hard. When she dreamt of being a teacher, she anticipated tender teachable moments, bringing forth mind- blowing lessons, students eagerly sitting neatly in rows participating, and idolizing her as their teacher. This reality was not what she had envisioned. You have to have a huge heart and thick skin to say the least. The students come with a variety of skill levels, social and behavior issues and some already deciding they don’t like you and ready to make your day in the classroom as difficult as they can. To be successful you must like the students, including the most difficult, and you must connect with them on some level. In her first couple years of teaching, she didn’t know how to do that. With so many behavioral and social issues, liking them was somewhat difficult at times. It often had her wondering why she had gone into this profession. If students don’t think you like them, they will not learn from you and it didn’t take her long to figure out that she had to do something or she was going to be a failure.
Soon she found that making connections with them worked. She began to understand them more, and in turn they understood her more and began to see her as a real person. That understanding helped her build relationships with her students to where she was able to find the positive in the most difficult of students.
Telling stories about her life helped her to make those connections. She told them stories about when she was a kid, and her present life with her son and husband. She gave them a window into her life. She told them about her childhood shenanigans, sadness, lost loves, mistakes she’d made. You name it! She had to take some risks when it came to story telling, but it seemed to make the relationships and trust in her classroom grow. Her students would also volunteer to tell their stories and this helped to build a feeling of empathy among them as they got to know each other on a different level.
This was a great opportunity to help her when it came to teaching writing. She used an exercise that was helpful in getting the students to brainstorm ideas for their writing that were personal topics. Coming up with their own ideas made their writing more personal and they took more ownership and care in their writing assignments. In doing this activity, it always brought to mind a personal story which she would write down for future use or would verbally tell her students. Her stories would bring to mind story topics for them that they would want to share with the group that would elicit even more story topics for the group. Deanna and her students all kept a list of future story topics, and she always told her students that someday she would publish one.
The opportunity arose for her to start writing while on sabbatical. Teacher Confessions Winter In My "Hood” is the first of her books which she plans to make into a series. Deanna is a Michigan native who shares her home with her mother, husband and two sons and is currently working on publishing her next book.