Throughout the year, Teacher in
Spotlight will shine the light on teachers and staff who do
for our students and go above and beyond each and every day.
The spotlight is on Omnia Elghaly!
Sure, lunchtime is typically filled with giggles,
lunchbox swaps and card games, but kids can never have too
much fun, we always say. This month’s Spotlight is
on Omnia Elghaly, a cafeteria monitor who’s on a mission to
empower students to take part in, take ownership of and
reflect on their own personal contributions to their school.
Walk through the cafeteria at Cooke Elementary School on any given day and you’re likely to find a sea of “kindness projects” gracing the walls and lining the tables.
At the lunch line, five girls stand huddled together. They didn't really talk much before, but now that they know more about each other, they're self-proclaimed "new best friends."
Once they finish eating and recycle their plates, students clamor for a chance to hug or high five their favorite cafeteria monitor and tell her about their upcoming game, test or plans to bake cookies for a friend.
These are just a few of the tangible signs that Omnia Elghaly – or Ms. O – is living up to her mission to help our students set goals, build character and develop a kind and respectful attitude.
When she first came to Monticello three years ago, Ms. Elghaly was a teacher’s aide at Cooke Elementary. Earlier this year she became the school’s cafeteria monitor and since then, the cafeteria has been known among staff and students as not only the place to eat and chat with friends, but also the place for fun and inspiration thanks to the routines, crafts and activity stations she has implemented.
“[Ms. O] has taken it upon herself to redesign cafeteria time for our students. She has developed lunch time activities, shows educational short movies related to health and wellness and works with the recycling program and its student workers,” Cooke Elementary School Principal Sandra Johnson-Fields said. “She is irreplaceable to our team and her initiatives help facilitate our district goal to develop life-ready skills among our students.”
Every lunch period starts out with a positive quote she has selected and reads out loud. Students munch happily, reflect quietly, and use that quote as their guiding force for their current project. This week they’re working on gratitude cards for the bus drivers.
From the cheerful chaos in the lunchroom to the posters promoting kindness, equality and love for the environment, Ms. Elghaly says it’s difficult to imagine that the cafeteria wasn’t always so boisterous.
“It used to be much quieter [in the lunchroom,]” she said. “I wanted to make lunchtime something that students looked forward to while at the same time creating an environment where they see how their effort impacts other people.”
Through recycling projects, donation drives, random acts of kindness, recognition awards, and more – students have been recognizing the tremendous power they have to cheer up or influence others.
“As I become closer with the kids and bond with them on a more direct level, I see how smart they are. There’s a different between teaching with them and learning with them,” she said. “Now, they lead the cafeteria. They help decide what projects we do. They’re realizing their ability.”
What’s more, the activities that Ms. Elghaly organizes presents students with opportunities to recognize and strengthen natural leadership abilities Out of every cafeteria project emerges a students’ natural role – whether it be a leader, writer, worker, a designer or timekeeper.
“The best part of my day is when I hear students say that they’re having fun,” she said. “I see each student as a gift and feel so incredibly lucky to have the chance to plant some seeds in their future.”
We applaud you for being greater than the average!