Each morning, Natalie Eder wakes up her kindergarten students with a song and dance moves.
“I try to incorporate music throughout the classroom,” she said. “Whether its relaxing and calm or whether its upbeat and getting your body moving kind of music.”
The singing and dancing lasts only for a few minutes before Eder moves on to the next task. She knows she’s working with short attention spans and quickly going from one lesson to the next is key to keeping her five and six year old kids focused.
“You definitely want to keep them engaged whether its changing your voice, or moving around or having them move around and being hands on in activities.”
Eder has been teaching kindergarten at Halstead Academy in Parkville for six years. She loves to read to her students and do arts and crafts with them. And each lesson plan must have an element of fun to it.
“It provides them with these opportunities that they are enjoying themselves while learning, so it keeps them active and they don't realize that has to do with counting or letters,” she said.
Her lessons go beyond reading, writing and math. Eder is teaching her kids about compassion and helping others. Last year, her kindergarten class made scarves to donate to the homeless.
“She really works to provide opportunities to build empathy and just help them be aware of the world around them,” said Jenifer Noll, principal at Halstead Academy.
And then there’s the Environmental Club she’s chaired for the last several years. She works with the older students at Halstead on projects like planting trees, trash clean ups and creating works of art out of trash.
“Its just a way I can get students educated about the environment but also foster that love for nature and recycling and taking care of this place that we live in,” Eder said.
Kindergarten has certainly changed over the years, and even though it is much more academic, Eder’s colleagues say she makes it fun for her little ones.
“She still keeps that magic of kindergarten going through her lessons her songs her poems,” said Pam Litsinger, a paraeducator at Halstead. “Anything that she adds to the classroom, the magic of kindergarten still comes through.”
Eder says she is often asked what is the next step for her in career. Her answer is always the same.
“I just want to stay in the classroom and work with the kids. I want to see them grow,” she said. “Knowing the impact you make in their lives is something worth staying for, especially at this school.”
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