A new teamwork philosophy has earned a pair of Floradale PS educators top grades from the province. Teacher Janet Martin and early childhood educator (ECE) Gloria Bauman are the recipients of the Premier’s Award for the Full Day Kindergarten Team of the Year.
Watching the “proactive, productive professionals” at work inspired principal Vlad Kovac to nominate the pair.
Early last month the kindergarten team was notified that they had received the award, which honours only one team from across the province for their work in a full-day kindergarten program.
“We were shocked and very honoured, but when it comes down to it we are just doing our job,” said Martin, who has been a teacher for 16 years.
The program is a paradigm shift in teaching philosophy; whereas kindergarten was once theme-based learning it has now changed to an inquiry-based learning, Kovac explained.
The new curriculum is currently being phased across the province over the next five years.
“It is really based on the student’s interests. So teachers are now coming at this grade from a different way or perspective. Students are now asking questions about things and teachers help them find the answers to their questions,” said Kovac. “It was identified early that these two teachers were not only doing well at it but they were accelerating with it.”
Through the new program school has become more of a hands-on experience for the children.
“It is phenomenal to see kids really engaged and really enthused with it all as they are learning what they want,” said Kovac. “It is incredible and very powerful to see the students learning in a different way.”
To be recognized for the award the kindergarten team must be comprised of a registered ECE and a teacher who are currently employed in a full-day kindergarten class in a publicly funded elementary school.
Although the team has only been working together for the last two years they have already worked with the school board to share their experiences teaching the new model by speaking to other staff and leading discussions on the professional development that is occurring in public schools. The ministry has also sequestered them to make videos that will be shared with the whole province about the program and philosophy behind it.
The two educators have taken a different approach to the classroom experience. During the school year they had their class run a lemonade stand to make the concept of money real to the students. They also made a bus and a fire truck inside the classroom and taught the children about wind and magnets.
“There is so much learning that can happen when the children are asking questions and we manage to get every aspect involved from math to language as well as a lot of social skills and just learning to take turns and learning their shapes,” said Bauman.
“The language that they are learning in a play-based program is amazing,” said Martin.
The students are more focused and want to learn about everything from writing to reading and math, said the two women.
“We don’t give them topics to write about. In the past we would ask them to write about what they did on the weekend but if you have children that didn’t do anything exciting on the weekend they don’t want to write about that. So you don’t get anything real from them. It is so much better that they write about what they are doing in classroom,” said Martin.
The two educators are giving their students a reason for needing to write or read.
“We are making sure that the children understand that writing and reading has a purpose in life not just in school,” said Bauman.
Working as a team hasn’t always been a smooth process, they admit.
“There are challenges. There are times (Bauman) wants to approach a subject differently than I would have and I don’t think it will work but as a teacher I needed to let go of the control of my classroom. She is a professional as well and has many different and good ideas,” said Martin.
The two women say they are much more comfortable working alongside each other within the program now and have been able to harmonize their teaching styles.
“It is just something that develops over time we both come in with different experiences, different education and different ideas but it is those differences that make us work as a team,” said Bauman. Working together makes the learning better for the children, said Martin.
“I have learned so much in the past two years. I have over 15 years experience as a teacher and I would think I have this job down pat, but my teaching has changed so much these past two years – all in a good way. The results that we are seeing are amazing with these children and they are excited to be here and want to come to school,” she said.
Another advantage of the all-day program and having two educators in the classroom is how well the teachers have got to know their students. With two of them in the classroom there are more chances for one on one time with students allowing the teachers to meet the students at their level.
“It has been a wonderful partnership. It has been a match made in heaven. I am so lucky to have (Bauman) in that classroom. The knowledge that she brings from the ECE world is so beneficial in a kindergarten classroom. I have learned tenfold this year just the different way children learn has been wonderful,” said Martin.