Last week was my daughter’s last day of kindergarten at Zion Lutheran School. Although large for a Lutheran School, our school ELP-8th grade, is small compared to our neighborhood schools. She’s just beginning her early years at Zion, simply moving to a different wing for first grade and it will be eight short years until I write about her 8th grade graduation. So why am I having such difficulty writing this post?
I think the reason I’m struggling with the goodbyes has to do with my love of kindergarten. Kindergarten has always been my favorite age and stage. Kindergarten is unique, unlike any other grade. Filled with the imagination and playfulness of a young child, combined with the foundation of academic skills, it is a true unicorn and encompasses everything I love!
My mother began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher and I have delightful memories of her substituting in my kindergarten classroom when I was five years old. My dad would have made a wonderful kindergarten teacher! When they cut the fine arts program in his school district he eagerly applied to be a kindergarten teacher. He was quickly denied, as a male kindergarten teacher in the late 1960’s was seen as taboo. I guess you could say kindergarten is in my DNA!
So it probably comes as no surprise that teaching kindergarten was my dream job. That prayer was answered in my early twenties when I was blessed to teach kindergarten for six years. After that I spent a few years helping college students realize their dreams of becoming kindergarten teachers and when I became an educational consultant I was known as the kindergarten expert, enthusiastically volunteering to train kindergarten teachers over any other grade level! That brings me to the present…the 2020-2021 school year, where I was privileged to be a parent to a kindergartener. If you know my journey to motherhood, this is something I do not take for granted! Little did I know God had another gift for me. When COVID took away my opportunity to do educational consulting assignments, I was asked to be an early childhood substitute at my daughter’s school. I never dreamed of being back in the classroom, and certainly not as a substitute teacher, but sometimes God has unexpected plans for us. This school year I found myself back in the trenches during a very challenging time in our nation’s schools. I worked alongside incredible educators, coming home exhausted, emerged in paint and sticky hugs and earning a wage that paid less than the minimum. But what I gained was far more than money could buy! As I worked in the early childhood wing I was taken back to my roots, back to where my passion for kindergarten began and I fell in love once again. And during a school year where COVID prevented parents from entering the school building, I was blessed to walk among my daughter’s kindergarten class and see her engaged in activity and learning. And as a bonus, I received an intimate view of my mini me’s kindergarten experience when I spent an entire day along side her talented teacher, substituting in my daughter’s classroom as her kindergarten assistant!
Mrs. Reed…the Quintessential Kindergarten Teacher- I’ve always said that kindergarten teachers were special people and Mrs. Reed, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, certainly falls into that category! Mrs. Reed is kind, patient, full of imagination and full of energy (one of the most important qualifications to being an effective kindergarten teacher). She is smart, creative, passionate and easily adaptable. COVID created great challenges but that didn’t stop Mrs. Reed and her assistants (Mrs. Collins, Mrs. McBroom and Mrs. Horn) from giving my daughter and her classmates a solid face to face kindergarten experience. In fact, there isn’t a thing on the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” poster left out and I find that more than amazing considering the challenges this year brought.
Mrs. Reed makes learning fun and captivating. On any given day you will find her dressed up as a baseball player, a doctor, a farmer or as her alter ego, Miss Julia (complete with a French accent, crazy wig and apron)! To this day my daughter and her classmates are unsure if Miss Julia is a real person or Mrs. Reed dressed in a costume! That’s why I love this age…one day they amaze us with reading new words, making connections and writing their thoughts on paper, all the while holding on to the magic of childhood and pure imagination! Mrs. Reed encouraged both in my daughter. She also shared the love of Jesus not only by modeling His love through her actions but by teaching her students weekly memory verses through song. What a gift! My daughter has all of the verses memorized and can easily turn to the word of God in time of comfort and need. She brought home a hard bound published book of every verse with classroom illustrations along with a personal memory book of each verse. And my daughter learned how to share God’s love with others through the kindness project and by creating God is Love flyers that she diligently distributed to every household in our neighborhood. I wish I could take credit for her actions but this amazing event has Mrs. Reed stamped all over it!
From pop corn words to phonemic awareness to literacy stations. From caterpillar to butterfly, pumpkins, leaves and flowers. From Zero the Hero, The Snowman, favorite authors (Eric Carle, Jane Brett and Louis Ehlert) building, creating, questioning, and singing to themed centers, dress up days, Bible stories and everything in between; my daughter had an amazing experience! Mrs. Reed, thank you for a wonderful year. You are the quinentisessional kindergarten teacher and are more than I could have ever prayed for in a teacher for my daughter and for her Noteworthy Mommy!
Now my daughter has experienced the last day of her magical kindergarten year and she is moving on to a new stage in her educational career. I know she is ready because we have seen her grow exponentially! So bring on the rigor of first grade and all the challenges, friendships, and experiences awaiting! While the Noteworthy Mommy may stay in kindergarten forever, I rejoice that my mini me has taken off her training wheels and is prepared to roll into first grade!