As Hillsboro Elementary School kindergarten teachers Michelle Berens, Tracy Boldt, and Rita Loewen reflect on the changes they have seen in their students over the course of the school year, and the first things that come to mind aren’t improvement in academic skills.
Boldt singled-out the students’ improved attention spans. When the school year began, she had to keep lessons and activities incredibly brief. Now her students are able to spend significantly more time on the same task.
Berens said her students’ independence and self-confidence have surged through the school year. Kindergartners in May don’t need nearly as much hand-holding in their lessons as kindergartners in August.
Loewen has seen major improvements in the students’ social skills: sharing, taking turns, and making friends.
Boldt said she tells parents that a complete curriculum guide would be thousands of pages long, there is so much that kindergartners learn in their first nine months in school – down to how to line up.
Kindergartners learn plenty of academic skills, too, and it has increased over time. Kindergarten now covers lessons that were part of first grade 20 years ago, Boldt said.
By the end of the school year, many students are catching on to reading, Berens said. It’s exciting for both the students and their teacher.
Loewen said it is fun to see students’ faces “when they realize they’re actually reading.”
The math curriculum focuses on including a lot of hands-on activities. It is important that the students aren’t sitting at their desk the whole time, Berens said. By the end of the year, the teachers want their students to be able to count to 100, count by fives of 10s, tell time to the nearest hour, and do simple addition and subtraction, using objects rather than worksheets.
Teaching kindergarten requires some specialized skills, notably the ability to keep track of many things simultaneously.
“There are a million things going on at the same time,” Boldt said.
Berens is in her eighth year teaching kindergarten, following 13 years teaching first grade at HES and one year teaching third grade in Williamsburg.
Boldt has taught kindergarten for 20 years, following five years of second grade. She currently only teaches morning kindergarten, but she said she is returning to full-time teaching in the fall.
This is Loewen’s first year teaching kindergarten, but she has taught art at HES and Hillsboro Middle School for 23 years before that. She also taught sixth grade in Durham for five years, and Title I for a few years.