Hustonville kindergarten teachers work together to build strong foundation

Published 6:19 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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By Brad Smith

Lincoln County Schools

The role of a kindergarten teacher is very important in building the educational foundation needed for a student to be academically successful. A kindergarten teacher serves in many roles throughout a day, navigating through many activities and developing personalities.

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To properly maintain structure in the classroom, a kindergarten teacher needs a good assistant. And according to Hustonville Elementary School Principal Jeff Craiger, he’s got the best around.

“All four of our kindergarten teachers and their assistants are tremendously effective, caring and selfless teams. Our kindergarten students are so fortunate to have such dedicated and passionate adults looking out for them and leading their learning,” said Mr. Craiger.

Hustonville currently has four kindergarten classes. They are taught by Mrs. Amanda Foster (assistant Laken Grider), Mrs. Jennifer Malone (assistant Anita Crowe), Mrs. Ella Schuler (assistant Shelia McCoy) and Mrs. Amanda Richardson (assistant Amy Cooper).

The four kindergarten teachers have a combined 69 years of teaching experience, and all except Mrs. Malone have been at Hustonville their entire career. Mrs. Malone joined the staff this year, coming over from McKinney Elementary. “The transition this year, combining Mckinney and Hustonville, has given me the opportunity to work with new people and learn from them. It has gone smoothly,” said Mrs. Malone. “The culture at Hustonville Elementary is really good, everyone seems to work well together and cares for each other as well as the students.”

Assistant Laken Griden, left, and teacher Amanda Foster.

Mrs. Foster, a 17-year veteran at Hustonville Elementary, echoed the same.  She said the transition in merging McKinney and Hustonville has been seamless. All four teachers talked about how great the learning environment is at Hustonville Elementary and how they’ve loved meeting new staff and students this year and increasing the Hustonville Elementary family.

Mrs. Schuler added, “Hustonville is home to me, and as a college student my mom and I always joked about me teaching kindergarten at Hustonville Elementary with her there, where I grew up. It was a dream that I never thought would happen.” The dream came true for Mrs. Schuler and she is in her 10th year teaching kindergarten at HES with her mom as her teaching assistant. Mrs. Schuler added that having Mrs. Shelia in her class is like having two teachers in the room and Mrs. Shelia also teaches a math group in the class four days a week.

Mrs. Malone talked about how important it was to have her assistant in the classroom with her. “Anita works very closely with me and the students every day. She assists in small groups, helps with assessments, processes paperwork and helps communicate with parents.”

Teacher Amanda Richardson, left, and assistant Amy Cooper.

Mrs. Foster and Mrs. Richardson have first year assistants helping them this year, and both agreed their assistants are much more than that, “Mrs. Laken is another teacher in the classroom, and I could not do it without her. Kindergartners can be very needy and we spend a lot of time just tending to their needs. Having two people in the classroom is essential to meet the needs of the students and the needs of the classroom,” said Mrs. Foster.

Mrs. Richardson commented on her assistant Amy Cooper – “She is my teammate and that she is willing to assist with anything that needs to be done. She ties shoes, wipes tears, gives hugs and praise when it’s needed too. Our students love her, she is always there to ask them about their days and listen to their stories. She makes a huge impact in their lives.”

Another way teaching assistants help in kindergarten is with social media and technology. Mrs. Schuler (and Mrs. Shelia) created a private group Facebook page a few years ago and said that it’s been amazing for parent/guardian communication. “It helps me build relationship with parents and makes parents feel like they are part of their child’s learning experience. We often post videos on the page to help them practice skills and learning at home too.”

Mrs. Richardson also has a private group Facebook page and says it is a primary source of information for her class. “We do live videos (that only people on the page can see) for fun events, daily pictures, etc. If I forget to send something home, or if I really want something to be seen, I just snap a picture and post it on our group page. It’s been a big hit with parents.”

Anita Crowe, left, and teacher Jennifer Malone.

Mrs. Foster and Mrs. Malone also talked about how technology has impacted their classes with the use of Chromebooks. The students are learning to use technology at an early age. “We’ve really been focusing on iReady this semester and encouraging the kids to set goals and work through it,” said Mrs. Foster. “Our students are growing up in a society thriving in technology and we try to provide opportunities for them to learn and explore it.”

Mr. Craiger said from an outside observer it would be hard to determine who is the teacher and who is the assistant in our kindergarten rooms. “They work so well together and focus on the kids. It starts from day one at Kindergarten Camp each summer and continues throughout the schoolyear. I appreciate the willingness of everyone at Hustonville to work together in the best interest of our students and there is no better place to see it demonstrated on a daily basis than in our kindergarten classrooms.”


Brad Smith is the PR/communications coordinator for the Lincoln County school system.