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Kennedy kindergarten teacher gets her students moving

The new kindergarten teacher at Kennedy Elementary school has been playing the role of teacher since she was in kindergarten herself. Shantell Mayer remembers coming home from school where her mother worked as a daycare provider and playing with the children. Mayer attributes her foundation of wanting to work with kids to that experience.

“I still remember when I came home from school,” Mayer said. “I wanted to play with the kids, I played house and I was the teacher.”

Mayer moved to the Twin Cities area about a year ago. She said that the community of Hastings reminds her of her hometown in North Dakota because it is away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities. Mayer completed both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

After completing her master’s degree, Mayer said she feels like she has a lot more resources and tools in her pocket. Her courses were also geared toward kindergarten and first grade, so she was able to get a lot of hands-on experience during her program.

Mayer said she likes to use teaching techniques that keep her students moving. She remembers sitting in a lecture hall during college and sometimes getting bored, so she said she can’t expect her students to sit for too long either.

“I don’t like to see my kids sitting in a desk longer than five minutes because they start to fall asleep, they get bored and then you know they’re not listening,” she said.

Some ways to keep the kindergarteners active include moving them from their desks to the carpet area in the classroom. She asks them to touch their head and shoulders while they transition from one to the other. She said she uses hands on learning techniques. Sometimes they use alphabet magnets to learn letter sounds and letter recognition. They can hold something and it peaks their interest a little more than just talking about it.

YouTube is another way Mayer incorporates active learning. The class is currently working on counting, and she uses videos to help them learn different counting strategies.

GoNoodle is another form of video incorporation that keeps the kids active, moving and mindful. Not only do the students love it, but Mayer said the videos get their brain ready to learn.

“There’s some of them (the videos) that is specifically brain development, so sometimes they’ll say pat your head and rub your tummy, so then they (the students) really have to concentrate on what their job is,” Mayer said.

By the end of the year, Mayer’s goal for her students is to have them doing independent reading and understanding the concepts and importance of reading. Socially, she said she just wants them to get exposure to responsibility and being respectful to others.

What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching kindergarten for Mayer?

“Seeing that light bulb click for those kids,” she said. “Some of these kids come into kindergarten with no exposure of anything, no letter recognition, no letter sounds … and after about a month of exposure in a structured classroom they learn so much.”

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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