Students are throwing pizza dough into the air. Students are demonstrating dances from their native countries, and outsiders are coming into the school to shed light on a different way of life.

First-year teacher Mandi Stai is shaking things up at Crossroads High School, which has earned her the admiration of her students and the Crossroads Rookie Teacher of the Year Award, said Principal J. T. Irick.

“She has challenged the status quo for Crossroads High School. Since coming into the classroom, she has been able to reach students in a different manner than others. She has worked in combination with another staff member by putting in place culture days to embrace student learning beyond the classroom. She has brought in guest speakers to speak to the students about government and to come in and present poetry,” Irick said.

“As a new teacher, she has put in the hours working with our homebound students, and she is always open-minded in listening to other people’s opinions in order to adjust lessons to support students. She also assisted with bringing Domino’s Pizza in and other activities to engage our students.”

Stai is always looking for new ways to bring her class to life. When entering her classroom, you notice the majority of the time, students are either in small groups with her learning or they are in pods learning. She does not teach information to them, but gives them information and provides an activity that promotes student-centered learning.

“She, along with the assistance from one of our instructional aides, has shown students other ways to learn material and study for assessments. Her rapport with her students is amazing,” Irick said. “You can see when she speaks, her students stop what they are doing and listen because of anticipation of what she will say next. They are motivated by her desire to be their teacher. She in turn is motivated to be their teacher by their desire to learn.”

Stai’s co-workers see her as an energetic and passionate teacher. They see her as someone who puts kids first and goes above and beyond what the expectation are for a classroom teacher.

“Stai’s students absolutely love her and will do anything and everything for her,” Irick said.

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