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    Categories: Lifestyle

K is for Kindergarten: one of the most special places in the world

J. J.. Nearing Kindergarten teacher Lori Lamer readies her class for play.

The Kindergarten teacher: it might just be the most important job in the world, at least according to parents of young children. Nervous yet hopeful moms and dads hand over young ones to the care of the outside world each September. It’s a daunting task for many families, but a story that plays out in familiar fashion for kindergarten teacher Lori Lamer. Whether it’s worried parents or cautious five-year-olds entering the school for the first time, Lamer has done plenty of hand-holding and soothing in her 15 years on the job.

“I see kindergarten as the relationship-builder: teacher with parent and teacher with student. Every parent gives me their best—their child—and I recognize that they’re the first and most important teacher in the child’s life. So my aim is to gently make that child’s world bigger; to teach them how to get along with others in a caring space,” says Lamer. “As the teacher, you have to have that passion each September, to learn those same lessons along with the children each school year.”

In her cosy, colourful and busy classroom at J.J. Nearing Catholic Elementary School in Deer Ridge, Lamer teaches the full-day Kindergarten program, though she has taught half-days too, and all elementary grade levels in a teaching career that includes time in Morinville and on the Alexander Reserve. She’s also raised her own children before coming back to a full-time spot as Kindergarten teacher in St. Albert’s Catholic school division.

“The kindergarten curriculum is based on learning through play, whether the full or half day program. Play allows children to follow their interests. For some, it’s a daily stop at the easel to paint: others want to play store, house or vet clinic in the playhouse; to act, sing and make up stories,” she says. And others still are content to read quietly, or be an audience member or ticket seller when classmates put on a show. Extrovert or introvert, kids are learning through play.”

Even with new technology and computers entering the kindergarten world, Lamer says literacy remains closest to her heart. But STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) offers exciting learning opportunities through play too, she says. There’s visual and spatial activities like building, planning and drawing, and design with board games and Lego blocks. Lamer says kids will leave out huge block structures on the floor that other students will add to or be inspired by; a place kids can come back to over and again to create something new.

Lamer says teaching full versus half days are slightly different, though the same curriculum is covered.

“It’s all inquiry-based learning through play, but we have more time to expand on concepts during the full day. Kids can take part in assemblies, gym and recess that way too,” she says. “But half days are fun to teach too: we cover the same material but things feel like they move lightning fast.”

Lamer says she sees great results with the practice of mindfulness in her class—ringing soothing chimes to signal the children to settle, re-focus and just breathe.

“It emphasizes the positive self-talk kids need: that they are strong, kind, brave, friendly and wise. Mindfulness is a great companion to the school’s prayer community too—a loving, caring environment – where we can keep working to the goal of training good humans. For me, it’s a privilege to be part of the start of that journey for each student.”

 

Lucy Haines: Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.