Award-winning teacher says newspapers are great instructional tool

By Ryan Lengerich

Cameo Elementary third-grade teacher Mary Finifrock de Parez remembers when as a little girl her dad taught her to read the newspaper.
“I wanted my students to have the same joy,” she said. “I’ve had a grandmother tell me she wanted to thank me for letting her granddaughter read the newspaper.”
Finifrock was chosen as the 2003-2004 Newspapers In Education Teacher of the Year and was awarded an engraved marble apple in her classroom Tuesday.
Bernice Ortega, NIE Coordinator for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico, said the award was based on how teachers use the newspaper as a learning tool. School principals nominate teachers and Ortega interviewed the candidate and chose the winner.
“(The newspaper) helps them with their reading and every day is new,” Ortega said.
Finifrock said she uses the newspaper on Tuesday and Friday. A scavenger hunt activity helps the children locate items in the paper and she said while the students struggled early in the year they have learned to find things quickly.
On Friday, Finifrock separates the children into pairs for reading. She said their favorite section is the obituaries, because it gives them a sense of history. She said they also enjoy the police blotter.
“It opens the classroom to the community and the world and gives them an appreciation of what is going on in the world around us,” Finifrock said.
Finifrock is in her 30th year of teaching; she returned to Cameo this year after a year away from the profession.
Student Heather Begley, 9, said her favorite section of the paper is the word find.
“I like when she lets us do the scavenger hunt,” Heather said.
Funding from Southwest Farmers Dairy and other sponsors help provide free newspapers to students in areas around Clovis.
Alfreda Sigala, a second-grade teacher at James Elementary, won the Portales award.