With more than 50 years of experience at Hillsboro Elementary School between them, second-grade teachers Debbie Dick and Rachel Winter have learned a lot about their young pupils.
Winter said a lesson she has learned is the importance of knowing when to push students to do more and when to back off.
In second grade, the focus is on incrementally building on skills students have already learned, rather than breaking new ground, Dick said.
“First-graders are learning to read, and second graders are reading to learn,” she said.
The teachers also expect more independence and responsibility from their second-graders than younger students. “What did the instructions say?” is a common reply to students’ questions, Winter said.
Keeping students entertained by learning is an important skill, Dick said. During a recent small-group math session, the teachers had their students play games that utilized math skills they recently learned. Dick said those small-group sessions are some of her favorite times in class.
One of the keys to keeping students interested in learning is for the teacher to be excited, too, Winter said. When a student has a breakthrough in understanding, conjuring excitement about teaching isn’t difficult at all, she said.
Dick joined the teaching staff at HES in 1984 after earning a degree at Tabor College. Her entire teaching career has been at HES.
Winter earned her bachelor’s degree at Tabor College and a master’s degree at Emporia State University. She taught preschool in Newton and 8th-grade science at a Christian school in Wichita before arriving at HES in 1983.
Although Dick and Winter have a wealth of teaching experience, they aren’t content to sit back and continue doing what they’ve always done, HES Principal Evan Yoder said.
“They are both innovative, enthusiastic educators,” he said.
They have done a good job using new technology to improve their teaching methods, he said.
Dick and Winter said wireless, computer projectors are helpful because they allow them to move around their classrooms and help kids more instead of being tied to an overhead projector in the back of the classroom.
Yoder also said Dick and Winter both have a knack for communicating with parents about how they can help their children learn.
Class sizes are a challenge this year. Dick has 24 students in her class, the most she has ever taught. Winter has 23 students this year. The classes are so large that USD 410 is taking applications for a para-educator specifically for second grade, they said.