Michelle Mattie said her son, Sam, 8, thrived after being in Diane Boyle's second-grade class at Lyter Elementary School, Montoursville.
Mattie said Boyle is "incredibly dedicated" to making the educational experience positive for kids and extremely passionate about her profession.
"She brings out confidence in her students," Mattie said. "My son went from being very shy, never volunteering, to thriving in her classroom both socially and academically. I can't say enough about this teacher who gives her students all that they need to be successful, happy, confident kids."
Second-grade teacher Diane Boyle asks students questions during a weather-related activity.
And Mattie is right. During a recent visit to the colorful second-grade classroom, students were hard at work on their handwriting assignments. The 17 children in class that afternoon were excited to write their names in cursive.
Best friends Eileen Chen and Kristen George, both 7, say learning cursive is their favorite part of the class. Well, that and the insects. The girls also were excited to show off the class' harvest ants that live in a gel environment.
But for others, the animals are more exciting subjects in the class that includes two frogs - Sharky and Jackson - and a fish named Fireworks.
In the Classrooms is published on the first Monday of each month.
To nominate a teacher for consideration, email Education Editor Dana Borick at email@example.com or education @sungazette.com or call 326-1551, ext. 3108.
Madison Dembitsky, 7, was excited that she is learning about the weather with a tornado tube, and documenting the daily humidity and temperature that the class monitors with special gauges.
This is a typical school day for students in Boyle's class. Through scientific experiment, the students create hypotheses and test them, all while learning and having fun.
Ryan Kennell, 8, is researching ocean creatures such as eels and sharks for his "blank book." A blank book allows students the opportunity to write about topics in which they are interested. The research about the topic then becomes the book. Through his research, Kennell learned that sharks fight dolphins.
Dembitsky, on the other hand, is crazy about hermit crabs.
"I just like them and I have one at home," she said. "Everything I do is about crabs."
George prefers butterflies, specifically monarchs, and was wearing a butterfly on her shirt that day.
Boyle decorates her classroom with colorful bins, many books and student artwork on the walls to create a welcoming environment for the students.
When the lights were dimmed for quiet time, Boyle began a weather-related activity where she asked students questions and threw a Beanie Baby plush animal to the student she wanted to answer the question.
"What happens to water in a cup or in the ground over time?" she asked the students. "What are clouds made of?" and "What are the forms of precipitation?" she continued.
"Rain," said Dominick Pulizzi.
"Snow," said Leeanna Anderson.
"Hail," said Lily Saul.
"Sleet," said Josiah Kilby.
Students were getting ready for an experiment where they painted saltwater onto dark blue construction paper to see what would happen when the water dried.
Egan Foster, 8, said the salt would be left on the paper and Jason Vonhummel disagreed.
"It's OK to have two different hypotheses," Boyle explained. "Who's right? We don't know until we do the experiment."
Students caught making good choices are rewarded in front of the class and are entered to win prizes by writing their number on a scrap piece of paper.
Her students also were excelling at the schoolwide 25 Book Challenge. Pulizzi showed off his sticker log, which showed that he read 162 books since the beginning of the school year.
"Most do more than the required," Boyle said.
The students also explained the two types of habitats for their harvester ants, including a gel home that also doubles as the ants' food. Noah Huffman said the gel was created to send ants to space.
Although there was lots of activity taking place during the experiments, Boyle never raised her voice or yelled at the children, only clapping, snapping and whispering to get their attention.
This is Boyle's 10th year teaching at Lyter. She began as an English as a Second Language-Instructional Support Team teacher before moving on to kindergarten, second and first grade. Her past three years have been spent at second grade, but Boyle said she would be happy wherever.
"They're all great grades."
Her initial degree was in social work and she worked for a time at Big Brothers Big Sisters in San Jose, Calif. She worked as a stockbroker at Charles Schwab for a few years before pursuing a teaching degree at Lock Haven University.
Originally from New Jersey, she moved back to the East Coast to be near her and her husband's family. Her husband, Michael, is an engineering manager at L3 who plays classical guitar on occasion for the students and is the class photographer during Halloween.
The class was excited to put their knowledge of animals and their habitats to work with a new game, "Habitat Challenge," that was played on the Smartboard.
During the game, students helped each other sound-out difficult words and work toward the correct answer. The classroom was bustling with excitement and energy.
Boyle incorporated hands-on activities and educational games to engage all students and their learning styles. Teams took on problem-solving to find the correct answers during the game.
"Each day, she embraces her students with a smile on her face as she provides a fun and exciting educational experience for all her second-grade students," Michelle Mattie said. "Her passion her teaching is reflected in each and every class assignment. It truly amazes me the amount of time and effort she puts into her lesson plans ... When I think of Diane Boyle, this quote always comes to mind: A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. This describes Mrs. Boyle perfectly."
Her son agreed: "Mrs. Boyle's an awesome teacher and I love being in her class."
Erin Turner said her daughter McKenna was a student in Boyle's class during the 2010-11 school year.
"She made the transitioning process into second grade so easy for McKenna. While McKenna is an outgoing child, she doesn't take on change well," Turner said. "McKenna had difficulty making the transition to third grade. When we ran into Diane outside of school and McKenna expressed how hard this year was for her, the tears in Diane's eyes as she was embracing my child said everything. I know she truly cares for her students as if they are her own. She has an amazing way of showing each and every child that they are special and can do anything if they try."
Denise Beltz's daughter Shelby, 9, was in Boyle's class last year.
"From the moment students arrive in her room, they are her complete focus. She is tuned in to every student's needs on both an academic and personal level. They come to her to celebrate their successes, and they know they can come to her for help with any problem or concern they have," Beltz said "It is common to see Diane working with her students during her free time ... She has a genuine appreciation for the unique qualities of each student, and encourages their individuality. Students leaving her classroom after sad good-byes in June know her door is always open for them, and she will continue to be one of their biggest supporters."
But the true testament to her success as a teacher comes from her students.
"Mrs. Boyle is really nice. She never yells, and always makes kids feel better when they are sad," Shelby Beltz said. "She gets fun things for her classroom, and I loved being in her class!"
In the Classrooms is published on the first Monday of each month.
To nominate a teacher for consideration, email Education Editor Dana Borick at dborick@sun gazette.com or education @sungazette.com or call 326-1551, ext. 3108.