Podcast: Tabatha Rosproy, First Early Childhood Educator Named National Teacher of the Year

Podcast: Tabatha Rosproy, First Early Childhood Educator Named National Teacher of the Year

In this week’s episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Tabatha Rosproy, the first early childhood educator to be named National Teacher of the Year.

Guest:

Tabatha Rosproy, a 10-year veteran Kansas teacher, is the first early childhood educator to be named National Teacher of the Year. She teaches preschool for Winfield Early Learning Center (WELC) in Winfield, Kansas. Housed in Cumbernauld Village, a local retirement community and nursing home, her inclusive classroom is an inter-generational program that provides preschoolers and residents with multiple daily interactions and serves special education and typically developing preschoolers in a full-day setting. She also served as a co-chair of the educator task force that helped compile Kansas’s continuous learning guidance for how to approach distance learning during COVID-19.

Summary:

Rosproy shares her experience with engaging families in student learning and highlights the necessity of a partnership between teachers and caregivers for student success. She also talks about the importance of keeping students connected to one another during distance learning. As Tabatha looks towards the next year, she discusses her plans to use her new platform to advocate for early learning educators across the country.

A Peek Inside Orchards Head Start

A Peek Inside Orchards Head Start

Ask 3-year-old Gianna what her favorite thing about school is and she answers with her entire body.  She springs up out of her chair—cheese sandwich still in hand—and punctuates her answer with two raised arms.

“Play!” she shouts.

What’s your second favorite?

“Clean up!” she answers with the same infectious enthusiasm.

She offers a third favorite without prompting. “Running away from monsters and big marshmallows!”

This is Gianna’s first year at Orchard’s Head Start and she is clearly having a blast.    

A boy named Cooper is crisscrossing the room with a serious look on his face. He carries an old school telephone message notepad in hand—the kind with the bright pink pages and the heading, “While you were out.”  Cooper scribbles purposefully on the page, tears it off and delivers the bad news:

“You got a ticket,” he says with stern authority. “For being loud!”

Gianna notices and does her best to catch Cooper’s attention as he makes his way towards her part of the room.

“I want a ticket!” she implores. “I’m being loud!”

Cooper issues two tickets to the grown up sitting beside her, ignoring Gianna’s voluntary confession. Unfazed, Gianna looks to the accused and offers to autograph the ticket.  “I know how to write my name,” she says proudly.

At lunch time, the children pour their own milk and show off cucumber sandwiches they have created out of the simple ingredients laid out family-style at their tables. Afterwards, they put away their own dishes.

A little girl reminds her tablemates, “If you’re done, then you have to wait.”

Those who have never stepped into a Head Start or preschool classroom might be surprised to know that nearly all of the activities Gianna, Cooper, and their classmates enjoy at Head Start are part of an intentionally planned, high-quality, early learning experience.

Photos From the Orchards Head Start Classroom

 

As Teri Seaton, a Head Start teacher with Educational Opportunities for Children based in Vancouver, explained, today’s early educators are expected to have knowledge and understanding of early brain development, to work with children who may need accommodations due to disabilities, and to address the impacts of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) among other challenging family and home environments.

“People too often associate early learning with babysitting and it’s so much more than that,” said Seaton. “It’s something that takes professional development, education, good training and intention, and planning to do well. That’s a piece that gets lost sometimes.”

At Orchards, the children have great freedom to engage in self-directed learning. They are offered many opportunities to be self-sufficient and are supported in acquiring the social and emotional skills that will help them be successful in kindergarten and beyond. Alongside early literacy and numeracy skills, children in high-quality early learning settings are also developing fine and gross motor skills, practicing patience and turn-taking, and building positive relationships with teachers and peers. 

As Gianna demonstrates with her energetic endorsement of both “play” and “clean up” there is very little distinction between work and play. The children of Orchards know how to integrate both and the result is a learning environment that is a joy to witness and be a part of. 

Many thanks to the students, parents, and dedicated staff at Orchards Head Start and Educational Opportunities for Children and Families in Vancouver, Washington for inviting us to be a part of their day.

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Baker City, in Her Own Words

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Baker City, in Her Own Words

Over the summer, Children’s Institute highlighted the important work of early childhood educators, hearing from teachers across the state about their experiences teaching preschool and kindergarten. We’re wrapping up the series as fall approaches with some additional insights into school readiness.

Cynthia Norton Explains What Kindergarten Readiness Means in Her Classroom

Cynthia Norton is a kindergarten teacher at Brooklyn Primary School, a K–3 school in Baker City. In this brief interview, Cynthia shares what parents can do to help prepare their children for kindergarten, and a bit about what she’s learned from her students over the years.

Why do you teach kindergarten, and what are you most looking forward to as school gets started?

I teach kindergarten because I love helping young children achieve their goals. Every day in kindergarten is so exciting: all the students make so much growth both academically and socially.

I’m really looking forward to making connections with my new students and their families. I love building a relationship with every student and their families. Each student brings a unique quality to our classroom which is the perfect design for our new community. I love working with all the students to discover what that will look like for the year. Of course, this changes over time and everyone finds their groove.

What does it mean for a child to be kindergarten ready?

For a student to be ready for kindergarten they need to be ready to learn. In my mind they don’t have to all be at the same level, but it’s nice if they have been read to on a daily basis. If parents are able to have this reading interaction with their 5-year-old it is a huge advantage for kindergarten. Being ready for kindergarten also means being able to follow directions from an adult.

To learn more about summer programs that can help prepare students to go back to school, and the importance of reading at home, check out our recent story on summer programs at Earl Boyles Elementary School and in Drain, Oregon.

What have you learned from past students that will impact your teaching this year?

I have learned so much from my past students. Having the ability to be flexible with every student is vital. I had a student during a math lesson show the class how he was able to solve a problem using a different method than the one I taught. This was so valuable to me and the rest of the class.

My students have also taught me to never give up on them and to have an unconditional belief in their abilities, and to always keep a smile on my face and try new things. Each year I learn so much from my class and the experiences they provide.

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Beaverton, in Her Own Words

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Beaverton, in Her Own Words

This summer Children’s Institute is highlighting the important work of early childhood educators teaching preschool through third grade. In this series of profiles, teachers from across the state tell us why they teach young children, what they wish people knew about their work, and what they’ve learned in their jobs.

Evelyn Hinds Explains Why Kindergarten is Such an Important Year for Kids

Evelyn Hinds is a kindergarten teacher at Rock Creek Elementary School in the Beaverton School District. Rock Creek, a K–5 school of nearly 600 students, serves a diverse population, with 31 different home languages spoken at the school. In this interview, Evelyn explains why kindergarten is such an important year for children, and how positive, supportive relationships lay the foundations for students’ future success.

Why do you teach kindergarten?

I truly love teaching kindergarten because of the amazing opportunities for growth that 5- and 6-year-old children experience during this pivotal year. Across all domains—socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically—kindergarten is a year of immense change that brings both joys and challenges. It is also a year of transition as children typically enter a new phase of their schooling, bringing the opportunity to establish a multitude of positive associations with learning, peers, teachers, and the school community as a whole. I am passionate about doing all I can to provide my kindergartners with a supportive environment that will enhance their growth through this significant period of development. I am dedicated to supporting children and their families during kindergarten in a way that sets them up for success in education and in life.

What is one thing about your job you wish people knew?

I wish people understood on a deeper level what a great task I have been given in my job and that it is an incredible honor to partner with young learners and their families every day. When provided with supportive, enriching relationships and environments, young children thrive and display curiosity, empathy, and resourcefulness in ways that continually humble me. The skills and strategies that kindergarteners can learn allow them to grow as thinkers who look at the world and the people in it in ways that are respectful and demonstrate their desire to contribute to positive change. I wish more people realized the incredible opportunity we have to shape young minds and hearts during this crucial stage of development.

Can you describe a learning experience you’ve had that has impacted your teaching?

I am deeply grateful for a learning experience I had several years ago that has impacted my teaching in profound ways. After completing a graduate program in education, I had the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in the eastern African country of Tanzania. The young children who called the orphanage home were between infancy and five years of age and had all experienced great trauma in their young lives. What stood out to me during the couple months I was there was how the positive, nurturing relationships between the incredible staff and the children were changing lives in amazing ways. I was also impressed with how the aid that British organizations provided to the orphanage brought in resources that further supported the children in their growth and development. This powerful combination of positive relationships and critical resources were giving young children the foundation for unbelievable growth, completely reversing their prospects for the future. I believe this same truth applies to the students I teach as well.

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Tillamook, in Her Own Words

Q&A: A Kindergarten Teacher in Tillamook, in Her Own Words

This summer Children’s Institute is highlighting the important work of early childhood educators teaching preschool through third grade. In this series of profiles, teachers from across the state tell us why they teach young children, what they wish people knew about their work, and what they’ve learned in their jobs.

Beth Ann Hendrickson Shares Her Life-Long Passion for Teaching

Beth Ann Hendrickson is a preschool teacher at Liberty Elementary School in the Tillamook School District. The school is a Preschool Promise site, serving 20 students. In this interview, Beth Ann tells us how her passion for teaching began at a young age, how she provides her students with a range of activities and lessons, and what she’s learned about teaching from her own students.

Why do you teach preschool?

I don’t think that there has ever been a time when I haven’t wanted to be a teacher. My teaching career began early in life. As the big sister, I bestowed my teaching talents upon my six younger siblings. Since paper was scarce in our house, I often resorted to other resources to teach my lessons. I remember dumping a box of jell-o on a cookie sheet to have them practice handwriting. While my mom was a true supporter of learning, my school was restricted to the outdoors after that incident. This presented a new challenge: now I had to compete with my siblings’ play time. I was undaunted in my pursuit of teaching and decided to incorporate their play into my school which I found to be quite effective. I’m happy to report that two of my siblings have also chosen to be teachers.

For me teaching preschool is such a rewarding and awesome experience! I enjoy being with children. I especially like learning with them and from them. Children love to learn! They absorb their environment with all their senses, letting their imaginations flow and their curious natures take over. There isn’t a dull moment in our classroom; sometimes it’s a moment of discovery, or laughter, or even tears; each of these times is special. This is a time in the lives of children when they often say exactly what is on their minds. Most of them haven’t learned to stop and think before they say things. For the most part, being embarrassed is not even a part of their world. This results in the most delightful conversations. I leave school each day with memories that will last a lifetime.

What is one thing about your job you wish people knew?

I want others to understand that teaching preschool is not babysitting. Teaching preschool is often a difficult, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating job, but it’s important work. It demands a lot of time, attention, and most of all creativity. I want others to know that it’s a balancing act in a preschool classroom. A teacher needs to know when to teach directly, when to provide time for exploration and discovery, when to practice skills, and when to encourage creativity. This is vital in order to provide the optimal learning experience for each child. I love and embrace this challenge every day.

Can you describe a learning experience you’ve had that has impacted your teaching?

There are numerous incidents throughout my teaching career that have impacted me as a teacher. The first time I experienced dropping my child off at school was an eye-opening experience. Michelle, my daughter, was very excited about her first day of school until we walked into the classroom. She clung to me while her younger brothers scampered to play with all the new toys. Amidst the confusion, I vaguely recall her teacher assuring me that if I’d leave, everything would be fine. My heart stopped cold—not too long ago I also used those very same words to “comfort and assure” parents. With a heavy heart, I gathered up the boys, disentangled myself from my daughter’s tight embrace, and trudged back to the car. I alternated between feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and even jealousy all the way home. The gloomy atmosphere didn’t improve back at home. The boys didn’t fully comprehend why Michelle couldn’t come home with them when she didn’t want to stay at school. I have since learned to prepare parents and families for this in my conferences with them before their child starts preschool. Oh, and Michelle did enjoy school that day.

Another important moment for me as a teacher occurred during a listening/following directions activity. Three girls were working on the activity, which asked them to draw a bird under a tree. Two of them held up their completed pictures of a tree with a little bird under the branches and quickly scampered off to play. I then focused on the third young lady, who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I watched her meticulously draw a beautiful bird with every detail imaginable, and then proceed to draw an equally fabulous tree right on top of the bird, completely covering it. I was astounded and asked her to describe her picture. She looked at me with an equally astounded look, held up her picture, and said, “This is a picture of a bird under a tree.” It took me a moment, but then realized that she was indeed following my instructions; however, she was thinking differently than most children. She was layering the tree on top of the bird, so the bird was indeed under the tree. She has taught me to “think out of the box.” This isn’t the first time this has happened in my teaching career, but it’s a wonderful reminder to think beyond what is accepted as the “norm.” I have since learned that I have to think carefully about how my instructions can be interpreted and carried out and not to make snap assessments when I see the results. I now pause and take a moment before responding to most anything.

Q&A: A Preschool Teacher in St. Helens, in Her Own Words

Q&A: A Preschool Teacher in St. Helens, in Her Own Words

Q&A: A Preschool Teacher in St. Helens, in Her Own Words

This summer Children’s Institute is highlighting the important work of early childhood educators teaching preschool through third grade. In this series of profiles, teachers from across the state tell us why they teach young children, what they wish people knew about their work, and what they’ve learned in their jobs.

Dani Boylan Reveals How Much Time and Effort Goes into a Well-Run Preschool Class
Dani Boylan is the lead Preschool Promise teacher for the St. Helens Early Learning Center at McBride Elementary School. In this interview, Dani shares with us the work involved in creating a preschool classroom that runs smoothly, and some of the professional learning she’s engaged in recently that has enabled her to meet the needs of a diverse population of students.

Why do you teach preschool?
I teach preschool because of the joy it gives me to come to work. It is amazing to have a job that you really WANT to go to each day. It doesn’t matter how rough things may be in my personal life, when I walk into my class and get greeted with big hugs and smiles, all my outside worries fade away. When I lost my dad to cancer, I went into work afterwards and my boss tried to send me home. I didn’t want to go home though because when I am in my class with my students, I forget about all my troubles and we just have fun together. To walk in every morning and see the excitement in the children’s eyes as they see you and inquire about what they are going to learn about that day is priceless.

What is one thing about your job you wish people knew?
I wish people knew how much work and time it takes to make an amazing program for children. People seem to think that it is a 40-hour a week job and it isn’t. The amount of time that goes into making a classroom great is way over 40 hours. Amazing teachers work so much at home not because they have to but because they want to. They want everything to run smoothly and be exciting for these little ones they teach. Most preschool teachers do not have a lot of prep time/planning time built into their work schedule. So, in order to make our classrooms exciting and well run, we do a lot of the work at home when we should be spending that time with our families. My children learned at a young age that we have a set homework time every evening. They work on their homework and I prep activities for my preschool. When they don’t have homework, they help me. They have grown up with me teaching their whole lives and I am very lucky to have two children who are so creative and love to help prep things for the preschoolers. This way I can get work done and spend time with my family.

Can you describe a learning experience you’ve had that has impacted your teaching?
My teaching style has dramatically changed over the 21 years that I have been teaching preschool. Each year it seems to change based on the students I have in class. I am still learning more every year. This year I had an unusually rough group of children. It was the first year that I had so many children with speech delays as well as other behavioral concerns. I enrolled in a community college class to help me figure out better ways to run my class with all of the children’s best interests in mind. I also made lots of referrals to Northwest Regional Education Service District’s Columbia Service Center to help get students the extra assistance they needed. I was shocked and thrilled by all the extra help that ESD gave me. They included me in professional development trainings that they were having, came into my class and brought me new tools and supplies to use, and overall supported me throughout this year. They helped me learn how to adapt my teaching to each of my student’s needs. Each and every one of my students succeeded in my class this year because of the changes I made for them, whether that was adding a quiet area for one of my boys to escape to when he needed to calm down, using a weighted lap pad to help a child stay seated, or asking lots of open ended questions to increase vocabulary and word usage. These are just a few of the changes that I made just this year and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring for me and my class.

Pin It on Pinterest