“Second grade is awesome” in the classroom of North Park Elementary Teacher of the Year Alison Sorensen
Congratulations to Alison Sorensen for being named North Park Elementary’s 2020-21 Teacher of the Year! Sorensen starts each school year with Lego-themed activities and slightly modifies the Lego Movie theme to fit her mantra - “Second grade is awesome.” She and her students sing, “Second grade is cool when you’re part of our team.” Sorensen works diligently to make sure every one of her students feels loved and a part of the team.
Sorensen started her career in education as an AmeriCorps teacher at Lewiston Elementary, where she taught kindergarten and first grade before switching to North Park Elementary. After taking a break to raise her children, Sorensen returned to North Park to teach first grade for one year. She is now in her third year of teaching second grade.
Second grade is fun for Sorensen because the students are more capable of doing things independently, but they still have a lot of innocence and desire to be at school. She loves getting them excited about literature, studying different authors, and even writing their own stories. Sorensen’s class recently started practicing different writing styles, and she found that they love writing narratives and creative stories.
Sorensen enjoys using music as a teaching tool. Her classroom learns a new patriotic song every month, along with other songs to help them remember lessons and information. For example, Sorensen believes that friendship and learning how to make friends is an essential part of second grade. To help reinforce the importance of working together and building friendships, she introduced her class to the song “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars.
In addition to using music in her classroom, Sorensen incorporates the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs into her teaching style. The Hierarchy of Needs is a psychology theory that categorizes human beings' basic needs. Sorensen believes that if students' basic needs are not being met (physiological, safety, and belonging), they will struggle in the classroom. “If a child’s physiological needs aren’t being met, it will be harder for them to learn,” she explained. “I like to look at each child, and if they’re struggling, I try to see what they need. If they aren’t succeeding at school, it’s often some specific, yet important, things that they need.”
North Park principal Jullie Payne appreciates that Sorensen goes above and beyond to help all of her students and is constantly trying to meet her students’ needs inside and outside school hours. “Alison Sorensen loves her students and loves teaching. She puts her whole heart into teaching,” Payne said. “She makes learning fun! She is calm and cool, yet bubbly and happy. This draws her students to her and they thrive in her class. She also is a great faculty member. She cares about her colleagues and is always thinking of bringing the faculty and staff closer together. She wants to keep North Park fun, even during difficult times, like teaching during a pandemic! Alison Sorensen is very deserving of the Teacher of the Year award!”