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Teacher takes helping creed beyond the classroom

By Staff | Dec 16, 2016

Submitted photo Lisa Jonczak, left, a teacher at Shepherdstown Elementary School, is shown taking a selfie with one of her students.

By her own admission, Liza Jonczak loves to help kids of any age learn.

A teacher at Shepherdstown Elementary School for 16 years, Jonczak takes her teaching profession well beyond her classroom, gladly providing help to area students and families in her free time.

Outside her classroom, Jonczak volunteers her free time to help tutor area children. Many of the children are her former students who have come back for help.

Recently, one of Jonczak’s former second-grade students from six years ago sought her help with his high school algebra.

“These are my kids,” Jonczak said. “I just want kids to feel good about themselves. If helping them after school does that, then they’re happier all around.”

Jonczak recalls the moment in high school she realized teaching was her calling.

“I had a teacher in high school who had me help students who were struggling,” Jonczak said. “I eventually realized I was pretty good at it. After that, I never wanted to be anything else.”

Jonczak also credits Shepherdstown for cultivating a local “help others” sensibility

“This is a great community,” Jonczak said. “Shepherdstown has so many volunteers, from parents to community members, to businesses. It’s just a great place to be.”

Jonczak also puts her master’s degree in English as a Second Language to good use, tutoring area adults

“I’ve taught many adults to read and write English,” she said.

Every fall for the last seven years, Jonczak has worked with Shepherdstown Elementary School counselor Laura Kolbert to raise funds to buy Christmas presents for 40 Shepherdstown children.

“We have collected money for Christmas meals as well,” Jonczak said. “It’s now evolving into the idea, ‘Hey, we’re going to give them a great Christmas dinner too.'”

The satisfaction of helping others more than justifies the time spent teaching after school and working outside the classroom, Jonczak said.

“If I could help one student read better, or if I can help one student to have a better Christmas,” Jonczak said.

“That makes a difference to me.”

When it comes to helping others, Jonczak said the act of giving tends to be contagious.

“It first started with my mom and my dad and my sister and I,” she said. “And then one of my mom’s co-workers wanted to give and now my aunt wants to give. By this year, it’s gotten really big. “

Jonczak said the Christmas fundraising sometimes yields unexpected surprises.

“It’s always heartwarming when you contact a family from last year and they say ‘thank you, but we don’t need help this year,'” Jonczak said.