Walking into teacher Karen Breault’s classroom at Newfield Elementary School you find many third-graders raising their hands to answer questions. That is the way she prefers it. “I’ll never get mad if you admit that you don’t understand,” Breault says, repeating the line she tells her students at the start of every year.

Her Stamford classroom is like one giant organized conversation. Breault peppers her pupils with questions, and they respond and send questions back. If a student answers a question wrong, Breault drops hints until the student gets it right.

“Think of them as a baby and then getting older,” Breault says to her students as she gets them to figure out the next part of their biographical essays on their heroes. Soon enough, someone gives the correct answer and they move on to the next paragraph.

Breault compares her classroom to a stage. She is the star of the show, and her students are the supporting actors. Though she receives the recognition, the students would not succeed without showing her that they understand the material, Breault says explaining her comparison.

Now in her 20th year teaching, Breault connects with her students by reminiscing about her days as a student and how she did not like school. It helps the students try harder when they know she struggled, too. Often, they end up learning more than they thought, Breault says. “I love saying ‘I told you so, I told you so.'”

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