At Ridgeview Elementary, it’s always ‘kids first’
At Ridgeview Elementary School, you’ll hear students before you see them.
Some are in classrooms, reciting after their teachers, others are playing in the gym or on the playground. You might even see a couple putting something in their cubbies or grabbing their jackets from hooks outside of classroom doors.
Ryan Frink, principal of Ridgeview Elementary, said that it’s one of his goals to make sure each child gets his or her educational needs met — no matter what grade they are in or if they have to temporarily work remotely. Since the pandemic began, it was very obvious that having kids in the classroom would be the number one priority, he said, so making sure that each child stays up to date when it comes to progress in the classroom is part of that goal.
“We’re trying to push (students) and really try to develop plans to meet all of our kids as individuals instead of herd management,” Frink said. “I’m doing a lot of things around that component. I think a lot of it is trying to celebrate our kids and have our kids or their teachers really trying to develop them to be able to reflect on what they need, where they’re at, and where they need to go next.”
In Amy Coupe’s first-grade class, her students are learning about opinions. For one project, they built their own snowmen with paper and wrote about why they liked them. One said she liked the mittens on her snowman, and another said his favorite part of his snowman was its scarf. All of this is part of a larger opinion unit in Coupe’s class.
Not only do students focus a lot on the traditional academic side of learning, Frink said, but students at Ridgeview also receive guidance about social skills and community building that you don’t necessarily get from solely learning about math and reading alone.
“There’s such a social and emotional piece of belonging to a community and belonging to a classroom,” he said. “There’s also having that sense of belonging that you just don’t get in a few hours of just working virtually.”
Part of that comes from an “acts of kindness” unit. During the month of December, some students are taught about the importance of acts of kindness and do the acts to help out others in the community — both at Ridgeview Elementary and in the greater Craig community. In kindergarten teacher Lauren Padon’s class, those acts of kindness will gear up this week and continue until Christmas break.
“In the month of December, we really want to teach them that it’s not all about just getting during the season,” Padon said. “We’re trying to learn to give and just to do random acts of kindness for people. Sometimes we don’t do one every day because it gets to be overwhelming. But we’re doing simple things. We’ll go and leave candy canes for another class, or we’ll all work together and clean the whole room for the janitor that day and then leave them a treat to eat instead of cleaning.”
On the wall of Padon’s room is a small calendar of her students’ acts of kindness. Stickers shaped like stockings and other holiday icons are scattered among the days of December, showing what acts of kindness will be done on those days Later this month, they will make cards and goodies for residents living in the nursing home and make treats for the bus drivers.
“We’re big on spreading kindness in here,” Padon said in her classroom Monday morning. “One of our main goals is to be kind to everybody.”
As a kindergarten teacher, Padon’s students come from various educational experiences before starting kindergarten, meaning some have had preschool and others have not. While it is not that unusual to have that variation, adjustments made during the pandemic have allowed for further communication between her and her students’ parents.
“We have messages (on ClassDojo, a communication platform), which is like a text messaging system,” Padon said. “They can message me throughout the day. The class stories are like Facebook, and I post pictures of what we’re doing. That’s another big thing with COVID, especially last year. Parents weren’t ever allowed in the building at all, so we are really good about the class stories. Last year, we were posting almost every single day because they never even got to come in and see the kids’ classroom.”
Frink added that using social media tools like Facebook Live has also allowed parents who work to feel connected to their children’s school activities. For events that happen during the day, like Christmas concerts, parents can take a short break to tune in from wherever they are, he said.
Just like any other school in the Moffat County School District and across the country, shortages for paraprofessionals and other support staff have had teachers adjusting to make sure that kids’ learning is not affected.
“When I prioritize, I ask, ‘Is it affecting kids first? Or is it affecting the staff or the adults?’ And then, is it affecting the whole school? Or is it affecting the whole district?’” Frink said. “Yeah, just as long as you put the kids’ needs first, we’ll get it done — that might be an individual kid, it might be a little group of kids, or it might be a whole class, but we just try to keep the kids first.”
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