The Start that Still Makes a Difference

Leana Malinowsky is a first grade teacher at Pvt. Nicholas Minue School in Cateret, NJ, where she teaches the inclusion class. She is also a certified Reading Specialist. Leana is the Associate Counselor of the Delta Rho Chapter at Kean University, and she has been an active member since 2007—over 9 years!

This is her story…


Leana (L) with Doree (R)

I was fortunate enough to have a great mentor teacher while I was studying at Kean University as an undergraduate education major. Doree was a teacher at the school where I did my student teaching and worked for the summer program. This was a school for children with multiple disabilities, and since I was pursuing special education, I worked there as often as possible to gain experience in the classroom with students.

I didn’t know how lucky I was the day I was put in Doree’s class.

Doree taught pre-school age students with autism. She was an undoubtedly tough teacher to work with, but I learned so much from her and was inspired by her work with the students. I soon caught on to her infectious energy and passion.

She showed me right away that teachers often make sacrifices to benefit their students and help them achieve their goals.

The time I spent in her classroom held some of the best teaching experiences I remember. I feel that even now, in my classroom, I use some of the same classroom management strategies she taught me, and I am extremely grateful for her direction and influence. It was because of her guidance, advice, and inspiration that I felt confident when I landed my first teaching job.

Doree was influential in my desire to work with students who have learning disabilities (of all kinds) and by working with her, I found that is my area of specialty. I love working with students who have autism, and I find the challenge extremely rewarding.

Doree encouraged me to continue to pursue my own studies and always learn as much as I can so that I can be an effective teacher leader.

The most valuable lesson I learned from Doree was to always recognize and celebrate the small moments and victories we have in the classroom—a practice I use every day. Doree motivated me to purposefully seek out and appreciate even the smallest strides my students make each day and turn the moments into opportunities for positive reinforcement and encouragement. Because of her, I see every “Happy Monday, Miss M!”, every light bulb I see when my students realize there is more than one way to solve a problem, every excited smile to start an experiment, and every laugh at a funny part of a book the true loves for why I teach.

Although Doree passed away in 2008 and did not get to see me graduate, I feel her presence every time my students achieve one of their goals. I owe much of who I am as a teacher to Doree’s great influence.

One thought on “The Start that Still Makes a Difference

  1. Stephanie Kearney says:

    Congratulations, Leana!!!
    Kean University’s Delta Rho chapter is so much more than just an honor society because of people like Leana! The passion she has for teaching is contagious and makes our members want to soak up all her knowledge. Not only does she help our chapter achieve our goals, but she goes above and beyond to support us in all we do!

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