Can Opener: Second Grade Teacher, Ms. Sheri Usner

 By identifying their strengths and by recognizing the strengths of their peers, these young people understand the importance of having a CAN-mindset. 

By identifying their strengths and by recognizing the strengths of their peers, these young people understand the importance of having a CAN-mindset. 

 Students in Ms. Sheri Usner's Second Grade classroom live in the Land of Can!

Students in Ms. Sheri Usner's Second Grade classroom live in the Land of Can!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I offer this week’s CAN Opener award to Ms. Sheri Usner and her second grade class at Nitrauer Elementary School in the Manheim Township School District, Lancaster PA.

This week when I returned home from college, Ms. Usner invited me to her classroom to read my book, Land of Not, which encourages students to define themselves by who they are and who they can be instead of by who they’re not.

After I read the book, Ms. Usner instructed her students to complete a Land of Can map activity, where the children wrote something they’re good at on a special "I Am-I Can" sticker. Then, one by one, they stood, talked about their CANs, and, as their classmates acknowledged them, placed their sticker on the map. They immediately became inducted into the Land of Can. It was an incredible experience.

My dream would be to have a Land of Not book and Land of Can map in every elementary school in the nation. It’s a message that all students must hear. Unfortunately, it’s a message that far, far too many kids (and adults) don’t fully embrace. It’s obvious that the students in Ms. Usner’s classroom possess a CAN-mindset. They were respectful, engaging and inspiring. With a teacher like Ms. Usner going above and beyond to introduce them to authentic experiences, her students will always live in the Land of Can! They will go far.

 

JJ Vulopas is a rising senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com. Follow him on Instagram and on Twitter @thelandofcan.