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Elizabeth Diaz, Stevens Forest Elementary School Fourth Grade Teacher

December 13th, 2017

Elizabeth Diaz in front of school

Stevens Forest Elementary School Fourth Grade Teacher Elizabeth Diaz works hard to know her students as individuals so she can meet their needs and help them fulfill their potential.

Diaz discovered her passion for teaching during her undergraduate studies at Ohio State University. She came to Maryland to attend the University of Maryland in College Park for graduate school. After earning her master’s degree in education and her teaching certificate, she came to Howard County and has been teaching at Stevens Forest ever since.

“Once I was placed here I realized how great of a school system it is. Howard County values teachers and supports teachers. I like working here because of the population of students that we serve. The diversity of our school is a great asset.”

The diverse student population means that teachers must individualize instruction to meet the varied needs of students, such as those receiving special education services, English language learners, and gifted and talented students, as well as supporting the special challenges faced by economically disadvantaged students. Meeting the needs of all students is one area where Diaz shines.

Matthew Brewrink, fourth grade team leader at Stevens Forest, said Diaz has the “ability to reach all students regardless of their needs while running a dynamic and learning-focused classroom.”

Diaz says being flexible is the key to reaching her students. “I try to have a highly organized and structured classroom in terms of reading groups and writing groups. Because of the diversity of needs among my students, I frequently have to change up the way I think about things and the way the groups are structured and how the instruction is designed so that I can better meet their needs.”

Elizabeth Diaz teaching sitting at table with class.

Another way Diaz meets her students where they are is by putting a lot of time and energy into learning each child as an individual. “One of the reasons I love being a teacher is being able to form relationships with students,” she said.

“She knows their strengths, likes and dislikes, what motivates them, etc., and she doesn’t stop making those personal connections throughout the year. She is genuinely interested in knowing each student she interacts with in order to challenge them to reach their potential,” Brewrink added.

One way Diaz builds relationships in the classroom, both with her students and in-between students, is through “community circles.” The circles are a time for social and emotional learning and social skill development. Diaz and her students use this time to talk and listen to each other and get to know everyone in the class on a more personal level.

Elizabeth Diaz teaching sitting with students in a circle.

“It comes in handy as a teacher because I know their interests and their strengths, and what they perceive as their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes students don’t realize that they’re strong in certain subjects. I can draw on what I know about them to convince them that they can do it.”

The community circles also help broaden students’ horizons. “We have students from all sorts of different backgrounds. By talking as a class, students gain new and better perspectives,” explains Diaz.

Kellie Frey, a reading support teacher at Stevens Forest, said, “Elizabeth has a connection with all of her students. She holds all students accountable for their learning. Her management style incorporates each student’s strengths while building their independence and skills needed for collaboration.”

Stevens Forest Elementary School Principal Ernesto Diaz (no relation) describes Elizabeth Diaz as “…an exceptional education professional at Stevens Forest Elementary School. While relatively new to the profession, she exhibits the traits of a seasoned teacher in all areas. Our students are extremely fortunate to have her in their lives. Simply put, Elizabeth makes teaching look easy through her deliberate, caring and highly effective manner.”

“I’m really committed to educational equity and making sure all students receive a high-quality education from highly effective staff members,” says Elizabeth Diaz. “I’m also committed to figuring out new ways to reach struggling learners, especially in the classroom. I’m driven by the belief that every student deserves a great education.”

Learn more about how Howard County educators use inclusive practices to meet each student’s unique needs.