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TERRIFIC TEACHER Anita Strassman, Naperville


by Danielle Fitzpatrick Clark

Anita Strassman has been a speech/language pathologist for 26 years, and was one of the original staff members to open Welch Elementary 15 years ago. She works with kindergarten through fifth grade at Welch, helping students work on communication skills. “A typical day is hectic,” she shares. “Some days I work with every grade level.”

As part of the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum at Welch, Anita also works with students to better understand character perspective. “Learning to understand others and putting ourselves in ‘another person’s shoes’ can be challenging,” she explains. To help students better identify others’ feelings, in one lesson a group of students took off their shoes, chose another person’s shoes, and tried to communicate like that person. “The students had fun with my shoes!” she adds.

In the past, Anita recalls one inspirational client, Olympic pole vaulter Don Laz, who had suffered a stroke. “He was truly an inspirational client who taught me that having a stroke shouldn’t diminish quality of life,” she says. However, working with children is really where her heart is and she loves helping them discover communication skills and watching those skills develop daily.

Anita also credits much of the success of her students to outstanding and talented team members at Welch, and the students’ parents.


1. Teacher secret weapon? My iPad! Students love to create stories and use the iPads for research and I can even share their progress with them through certain applications.

2. Best teaching compliment? A parent once told me, “I feel like you treat my child as if he was your own.”

3. Favorite quote or saying? “The most successful people are good at plan B.” It reminds my students and me that we all have to be flexible thinkers and doers.

4. Best teaching moment? There are so many “best” moments watching my students do something for the first time, and seeing their pride is inspiring. I was able to watch one of my stuttering students perform in a play and one of my shy reluctant speakers volunteer to speak at a school program. Another student was a spokesman for the Special Olympics!

5. Must-have item in your desk? A hockey puck that was given to me by one of my students who played on the Neuqua Tomahawks team! It always reminds me to help my students reach their goals. -Danielle Fitzpatrick Clark