One benefit of writing a column is the opportunity to meet influential people in our community. I consider teachers to be some of the most influential. The job they do cannot be underestimated. This profile of a first-grade teacher, Joyce Accavallo, is a good example. This appeared in the Ossian Sun Riser newspaper.
“If you don’t care about kids, you can’t teach,” says Ossian Elementary School teacher Joyce Accavallo. “Kids have to feel you love them or they won’t respond to discipline or learning.”
Accavallo has taught in the Northern Wells School District since 1974. During that time, she has taught first and second grade, mostly at Ossian Elementary School. She began her teaching career at Rockcreek School until it closed five years later. She then accepted a position at Ossian Elementary School. Accavallo currently teaches 19 first graders in the school which contains 600 students.
Accavallo grew up in Liberty Township, graduating from Southern Wells High School. She attended Taylor University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with an Endorsement in Special Education. She later earned a Master’s degree from Ball State University.
When asked what she believes it takes to make a good teacher, Accavallo replied with this story, “A few years ago, I was on an interview committee for our school. One question we asked each interviewee was why he or she became a teacher. Each one said they always knew they wanted to be in education.”
The response coincided with Accavallo’s experience. “As a little girl, I always played school with dolls,” she said. As she got older, Accavallo helped teach Bible School at her family’s church, Liberty Center Baptist.
Part of her motivation to teach may have come from her family. Her father, Charles Day, served as principal at Lancaster Elementary School during her childhood, retiring two years after Accavallo began teaching.
Over the years since she has been a teacher, Accavallo has seen several things change, foremost being the use of computers. “At the time I graduated from college, I had never touched a computer,” she said. “Today, their use is so prevalent in the school I would not want to be without them.”
She inserts the same praise for the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). “Our PTO provides many things for our classrooms and students,” she said. “Our parents are concerned about education. It helps when parents support the school and teachers.”
Another area Accavallo sees as changed is student curriculum. “When I began teaching, first graders were expected to memorize math facts up to number 10. Now it is 20. I worry we’re taking away their childhoods. The focus is so big.”
With her three decades of experience Accavallo finds a unique advantage in her role as a teacher. “The value of each child seems more blatant to me than it used to,” she said. “I just love the kids. It’s tough being a teacher but there is something good about it, or I would not still be doing it.”