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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

Sewickley Academy's Private School Blog

Getting to Know Rina Heavner

Anna (Rina) Heavner - Assistant Kindergarten Teacher

Rina Heavner joins Sewickley Academy full-time after having served as a substitute teacher in a variety of classrooms in the Lower School last year. With 11 years of experience at several schools in New York, teaching Pre-K and Grades 1, 2, and 3, Rina earned her B.A. from the University of the Philippines and her M.S. in early childhood and elementary education from the highly regarded Bank Street College of Education in New York. 

Rina-HeavnerWhat motivated you to become a teacher?

Right after college, I started working with children as a child talent coordinator for a children’s television network that produced the Philippine version of Sesame Street, “Batibot.” Through my new job I began working with children constantly. I was an acting coach for these aspiring young actors and actresses. That was my first informal exposure to working with children, and it sparked my desire to continue a career in teaching.

What are some of your interests/hobbies?

I grew up never having seen snow or experiencing the winter season, so when I moved to New York many years ago, I made it a goal that I would learn how to ski, and I was successful. Both downhill and cross-country skiing have become two of my favorite hobbies in America. Next I was introduced to archery, and I spent over six years competing and training with professional archers in the tri-state area in the Northeast.

What are your favorite moments with a student?

As a teacher of young children, every day is full of precious moments that I will always treasure and fondly remember, but one of my favorite moments in the classroom is when a student comes up to me and gives me a big hug. The hug, to me, is a simple and sincere sign that the child has felt valued and genuinely appreciates what has transpired in the classroom for that day.

What traits do you look for in your "ideal" student?

My philosophy in education is to advocate for the strengths and needs of each student. All students are my ideal students. Each child is a unique individual. That uniqueness is what I see as ideal and what I try to nurture.

How do you get the results you want each student to achieve?

This summer, I attended a Responsive Classroom workshop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. There were two over-arching ideals that stood out during the five-day workshop: one was the power of using positive language in the classroom, and the second was teaching through interactive modeling. My focus this year will be to embrace and utilize these compelling principles to help each child get the results we want them to achieve. By using positive language, I hope to inspire my students to pursue and try their very best in their everyday classroom experiences. Positive language will encourage our students to strive and grow as learners, build their overall confidence and, above all, allow each child to feel esteemed, to believe in him or herself and his or her ability to succeed. Through interactive modeling, children will see our expectations, and they will learn to visualize their results. Interactive modeling puts a teacher’s words in a visual perspective: this a moment when a student actually sees what a teacher expects them to be doing by having peers model the expected behavior or expected work in the classroom.  

Who are your mentors?

Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Lucy Calkins, Maria Montessori, and Mr. Rogers were all inspiring educators. I consider them my mentors: their teachings remind me to persevere, and to strive to do my very best in the classroom on a daily basis. However, I still consider my mother as my first mentor because it was she who told me to pack my suitcase and go out and see the world. My journey as an immigrant, with a dream to pursue higher education in a foreign country, allowed me to spread my wings and embrace the unknown; that unknown was the power to teach, the power to inspire the many children who I have taught in the past, those with whom I now work, and those whom I may influence in the future.

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