Nibley Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, Kathy Larkin: Promoting purposeful learning through hands-on experiences
Congratulations to Kathy Larkin, who has been named Nibley Elementary’s Teacher of the Year! Larkin is known for giving her students unique learning opportunities through hands-on experiences. These activities help her students to make connections between what they are learning and experiences in their own lives. Larkin believes that the best way to help her students achieve personal success is by gaining confidence in themselves.
Larkin,who received her bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in elementary education and early childhood development, has been teaching kindergarten at Nibley for 21 years. Her passion for teaching kindergarten comes from a desire to help guide students as they begin their own educational journeys. Larkin enjoys working with kindergarteners because she feels that her personality clicks with her students. From her studies in early childhood development, she understands their train of thought, and this has helped her know how to help them and talk through their problems.
In the classroom, Larkin makes purposeful learning a priority. Her goal is to help students apply what they are learning at school to their personal lives. Larkin believes that when students feel like the information they are learning can apply to real-life situations, it helps them see the importance of what is being taught. For example, when Larkin teaches about shapes, she has the students think about things in their life that are that specific shape. This helps open their eyes to new things while helping them connect to the world. “They're so hungry to learn, that they are involved in their learning,” she explained.
Every spring, Larkin brings several types of animals and insects into her classroom. In the past, these have included mealworms, caterpillars, and even baby chickens. Larkin uses this experience to teach about life cycles as the students watch the mealworms go from larvae to beetles and the caterpillars transform into butterflies. When her class hatched chickens, Larkin taught about other types of animals that come from eggs and allowed her students to participate in something that most of them had never done before. Along with living animals, Larkin also has her students grow lima beans to teach about the different parts of the plant and the potential every seed has to grow.
“Kids need to have hands-on experience with learning,” Larkin observed. “Every child can learn. You just have to find out how they're going to learn.” Hands-on learning is just one way Larkin keeps things fun. She also incorporates movement into her classroom. For example, every five to eight minutes, the students stand up and participate in exercises like alphabet yoga or moving around the classroom. This helps them to stay engaged with learning and still get their wiggles out.
Nibley’s principal, Dee Ashcroft, believes that as a teacher, Larkin has found her calling in life. “It takes a special person to teach kindergarten,” Ashcroft said. “You have to be patient, kind, organized, caring, hard-working, and sometimes, I believe just a little wild and crazy. Kathy has all of these qualities and many more.”