When Rachel Frescino was in college, her professor challenged her class to carry gallons of water across campus. She never guessed that it would prepare her for real life.
“My teacher told us that when we wouldn’t carry them anymore, we could just drop them and she would come pick them up, but she said, ‘I want to see how far you can carry them,’” said Frescino. “And I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I hope I can do this.’”
After graduating, Frescino began her career teaching first grade in Altamonte Springs. She then got married, and she and her husband moved to a little island called Palau to serve as missionary teachers for two years. And while they were there, there was a drought.
“Water was so limited. It was only on for an hour every day, and even then people were getting sick because the water wasn’t clean. My husband and I had to walk to a rain tank and walk the water back to our house, and it was like a déjà vu from college; I never thought I’d have that experience,” said Frescino. “I want to give kids experiences like that. I want to give them experiences that put them in someone else’s shoes and teach them to be empathetic; to think about others; to be thankful.”
Frescino is passionate about providing students with authentic, real-world experiences. One of her favorite ways to get them thinking about other cultures is through children’s literature. During her time in college, she read a book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, in which a young boy in Malawi, Africa built a windmill and changed his entire community. Upon becoming a teacher, Frescino discovered that this was a children’s book as well and shared that with her team, excited about its project-based learning potential. “Our headmaster said, ‘I actually know someone working [in Malawi] right now!’ So now, we’ve been Skyping with elementary students in Malawi,” said Frescino.
Once a week, the 4th-7th grade learning community Skypes with the students at the Matandani Mission School to ask questions, share songs, and experience each other’s culture.
“We share things about ourselves. Kids have been taking pictures on iPads and creating captions to show what their homes and everyday lives look like. The kids in Malawi have never had pizza! So they’re making pizza, and we’re making dried corn. Our kids are also going to make a proposal for the principal to ask if we could make a traditional fire pit and cook outside,” said Frescino. “It got way bigger than I ever dreamed, but I’m so excited.”
Frescino is thrilled about the global education possibilities that come out a partnership with the Matandani Mission School.
“I hope that [our students] can learn to appreciate people all over the world and that they develop genuine friendships with the kids there,” said Frescino. “I want them to care about and respect people from all walks of life, be curious, explore the world around them, and learn that sometimes, we’re a lot more similar than we think.”
When she first began her career in Altamonte Springs, Frescino was used to having an abundance of classroom supplies at her disposal, and she used them to teach her children about the world. However, after her time in Palau, her approach to teaching changed.
“I had very limited resources. I was still a new teacher when I went [to Palau], and I thought that being a good teacher meant having a cute bulletin board and using the trendiest items. I felt a lot of pressure, and I thought I needed all these things to do a good job,” said Frescino. “But I had a great two years while we were there, and it wasn’t what I had; I had bare walls! I realized that it’s not the things that make you a good teacher — it’s the relationships you build with your students that are going to push them and catapult them to success.”
Frescino is committed to supporting her students and showing them that she cares, whether it’s through attending their sports games, remembering their favorite books, or helping them push through challenges.
“I hope my students take away that they can do anything that they put their minds to, and that failure is not the end-all — it’s your first attempt at learning,” said Frescino. “I don’t want them to feel limited by family or race or gender or where they came from; I want them to feel really empowered and really successful.”
Get to Know Rachel Frescino:
Q: From what school did you graduate? What was your major?
A: I graduated from Southern Adventist University, and my major was Elementary Education. I never changed my major; I knew what I wanted to do and I stuck with it. I was the kid who always cried on the last day of school because I loved it so much!
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I love anything crafty! I like hand-lettering, taking pictures, and watercolors.
Q: Who is your favorite children’s book author?
A: I love a lot of Peter Reynolds books! He has a lot of growth mindset topics, and I love that — you can never get enough of those.
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: The Greatest Showman! There’s also an educator that I really admire, so I watch The Ron Clark Story every time I need a pep in my step and to remember my Why.
Q: What’s your favorite place that you’ve traveled?
A: When I was in college, I got to study for a summer abroad in Italy. That was absolutely amazing! And after I got married, my husband and I went to an island called Palau in Micronesia, close to the Philippines. We had no AC in our house, but it was the most incredible experience.
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