Sunday, January 27, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Kathy Sweet

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Kathy Sweet
Title 1

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for 32 years. I taught 20 years in first grade, 9 years in a multi-age first and second graders and 3 years in Title 1.

What was my Funniest moment?

Children say the funniest things, so it is hard to pick my funniest moment. After looking through some magazines for a new art project I found this really cute Easter bunny basket. It looked a little difficult but I thought we could do it (not a great idea). We had worked very hard on it and about half way through I thought never again, but we kept on plugging away. Finally we were almost finished when a little boy, whose favorite subject was not art, called me over with an upset look on his face. He had the bunny all put to together and it was missing an ear. I thought he was upset about the missing ear when in fact he was just tired of this art project. I offered to help him make a new one. He looked me in the eye and said “ No, let's pretend that he got it shot off.” It was a perfect end to a terrible art project!

Best Memory

My best memories come from my multi-age classroom. Becky Mackowiak and I taught a multi-age first and second grade classroom with fifty students. It was very exciting to watch children grow and learn for two years. At the beginning of each year the older children helped the younger children with rules and procedures and we knew exactly were the older children left off before summer so they didn’t loose any time getting started.  Since we often had other siblings from the same families, we might have had a family with us for four to six years. That made our home and school connection even stronger. I really learned and grew as a teacher in those nine years.

Reading strategy

Children need to be reading and writing at their level all through the day. I tell the children it is just like sports or other things they want to be good at.  It takes practice, practice, practice.  Walk around and listen to them read.  You can learn a lot about what skills they need to work on by just listening to them for one or two minutes. Then design your small group lessons on the information that you have gathered during this time. If you want children to remember what you are teaching, you need to teach lessons according to what skills they are ready for next.

Math Strategy

Young children need a lot of hands on activities to gain deep understanding of the math concepts. When designing your lesson, be sure to take into consideration the styles and levels of learning and set up centers that provide practice. Also give the children a chance to discuss with others what they have learned. The biggest thing that I have just recently added to my instruction is WAIT TIME. When you ask a question, give time for the child to think and expect some answer, even if it is just part of the answer. We can learn so much about what a child knows when we listen to them explain. Many children have learned that if they say nothing, we will move on and ask someone else, or just give the answer and then they don’t have to think about it.

Advice to new teachers

Since young children need movement and need to talk about their learning, take the time at the beginning of the year to teach, practice procedure and set expectations. This will make centers and other movement activities run smoothly. Students need a classroom where they feel welcomed, safe, respected, and challenged. Take the time to create this atmosphere in your classroom.

Pictures from Kathy's RTI classroom. 
Students are working on Partner Fluency Stories and using "story pointers" that she made.

Kathy has been a great mentor to me personally and to many teachers new to the field and that have been around a long time. She is a Master Teacher - she is an amazing reading teacher and her skills go across the curriculum. Thanks Kathy for the years of great advice to your colleagues and to the many students that have had the good fortune to be in your class.


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