Growing and Empowering Little Graduates

By Office of Communications
Employee News
June 03, 2024

The moment you step into Tara Klibansky’s first grade classroom at Bucknell Elementary School, you can feel the positive, empowering energy she shares with her students. 

Whether they are working as leaders at the SMART board or singing a song about the -er suffix to the tune of Frozen’s “Let It Go,” Tara’s students are engaged, confident, and learning. And they’re not only absorbing the basics of their academic curriculum, they’re also learning the Portrait of a Graduate (POG) foundations that are thoughtfully woven through her lessons and teaching methods. 

“You all are being great communicators giving him some extra processing time,” she said as a student was taking a while to think of the answer to a question. “Would you like more time, or would you like a friend to help develop your thoughts?”

Tara said it is very natural for her to name what her students are doing in situations like this. 

“It builds them up, promoting them as strong, successful individuals,” she said. “The children and I discuss regularly how our POG attributes and skills are used in the outside, everyday world.” 

Examples she has discussed with her class include how they can collaborate on a soccer team, communicate with a doctor, or think critically with a builder. 

a teacher and her class sit on a rug in a classroom
Ms. Klibansky and her students display a hand signal that means “connection” or “me too.”

Tara has seen her students go through a “metamorphosis” since the beginning of the year. They have grown into “autonomous, critical thinkers, eager to be curious and creative learners,” she said. 

Reflecting on her own childhood, Tara looked to her childhood educators for guidance. “They taught and raised me to be self-sufficient, goal-directed, resilient, and to communicate effectively so that my basic needs could be met,” she said. “They taught me not only academic content, but also prepared me for the world that I inhabited by supporting me as a whole person, and not just as a student.”

This background has inspired her to pass on the same gifts to the children she teaches. She has worked to make POG an “organic” part of her “teaching identity.” 

“Ms. Klibansky’s classroom is a joy to see,” said Bucknell Principal Rashida Green. “It’s a warm and nurturing environment where every child feels valued, supported, and like their unique voice matters. Her lessons are thoughtfully designed. Ms. Klibansky goes beyond academics — she intentionally builds strong POG skills that empower students to thrive not only in school but also in life. Her impact is long-lasting and we’re grateful that she’s a part of our Bucknell family.” 

a teacher helps a student with a worksheet

Watching her students grow is the most satisfying part of teaching for Tara. “It is gratifying to hear from families, co-workers, and others that they have heard or seen a child in my class be an effective communicator, collaborator, or critical thinker,” she said. 

“I am so proud of my little graduates,” she said. “They are the portrait of success!”