Meet Our Local Featured Teacher: Maddie Ward

By Amanda Roland

AT WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU CURRENTLY WORK? Meadowbrook Elementary School

WHAT GRADE/AGE DO YOU TEACH? Kindergarten, this year I am teaching fully online (Digital Academy)

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A TEACHER? This is my second year

WHAT SUBJECT DO YOU TEACH? All subjects – reading, math, science, social studies, writing, social/emotional learning

What inspired you to become a teacher?

My teachers played a foundational role in shaping me into the person I am today. Specifically, my fourth grade teacher Ms. Connie Davis is who inspired me to teach. She was one of the first teachers to communicate that she cared about me as a person – not just as a student or as a grade. She took an interest in our lives outside of school – if you invited her to your dance recital or piano concert, she was there. She created special events like family kickball games one weekend a month so that she could get to know and build relationships with each family outside of school. I learned a lot from Ms. Davis that year, but what I remember most is how she made me feel.

One of my favorite quotes embodies the philosophy and mindset I strive to implement in my classroom daily. As stated by Rita Pierson, I believe that every child deserves a champion – “an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” I desire to be that champion for my students – who loves them as they are and encourages each one to reach their full potential. I know that the classroom (even a virtual one!) may be the only place that a student hears that they are valued. Teachers have such a unique ability to positively influence the trajectory of a student’s entire life.

Creating a safe classroom environment is of utmost importance to me. A space where students take risks, embrace mistakes (and learn from them) and share ideas. An environment where students grow not only academically, but socially, mentally and emotionally. Learning should be a fun experience. As teachers,

it is important to create moments and opportunities that allow and encourage students to nurture their enthusiasm for learning. I try to build on the memories that I had as a student to cultivate fun, new learning experiences with my class.

What is your favorite part of the school day?

It is difficult to pick! I love our Morning Meeting time. We dance for two minutes while my students are entering our Zoom meeting. Then I greet each student by name and they say good morning to their classmates. In the past, I stood in my doorway to greet each student with a hug, wave, high five or fist bump. Although we are learning and connecting digitally this year, it was still very important to me that I greet each student by name before starting our school day.

My favorite subject to teach in reading. Itissuchajoytoseehowmuch kindergarteners progress in their reading skills, ability and confidence throughout the year. Celebrating even the smallest of victories and “aha” moments with them is something I truly treasure.

Do you have a favorite assignment/ lesson you give the students?

While it has sometimes been challenging and time-consuming to make digital assignments, it has allowed students to do new activities at home that would not have been possible in the same way at school. An activity that my students now do each week in some variation is a scavenger hunt with the concept(s) we are learning – such as the letter of the week, syllables, shapes, comparing numbers, etc. The students take and upload a picture, label their picture, and record their voice explaining their thinking. It is so fun to see their creative and unique applications of the concepts we are learning.

Another “tradition” that we’ve been able to do together this year is throw a surprise birthday celebration for our specials teachers. In the beginning of the day, we make signs that say “Happy Birthday.” Then, when the specials teacher is about to enter our Zoom call, we all turn off our cameras, count to three, then say “Happy Birthday” and turn our cameras on so that they can see the signs. One of my kindergarteners even learned how to play happy birthday on the piano, so now he plays the song each time, too! That would not have been possible if we were in the classroom. Sweet moments like that have reminded me of the thoughtfulness and kindness of kids – even if we can’t physically be together right now.

How do you wind down from a long day of teaching?

My honest answer is to take a nap! I thought that teaching virtually wouldn’t make me as tired as teaching in person, but that is not true! I still come home exhausted (in the best way) each day from giving my all to my students. I also enjoy crafting and writing cards/letters to mail to friends.

What do you like to do outside of teaching?

Outside of teaching, I enjoy crafting and graphic design. My love for graphic design started from creating things for my own classroom, but now I also create resources for other teachers, too!

Share a funny teaching moment/day.

During our third week of digital learning, one of my students unmuted their microphone and said “Miss Ward, do you have legs?!” I realized that they had only ever seen the top half of me in the webcam because I am sitting all day! So now each morning we all take a step back from the camera to show off our outfits (and remind each other that we are more than just a face in a Zoom box)!

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

I would be Superman because I think it would be really fun to fly!

What is your favorite book?

My favorite children’s book is The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright. I read it for the first time when it first came out in 2016, and I teared up as I turned each page because the message really resonated with me. The Koala is afraid to try new things, but after he works up courage and bravery, he realizes that new experiences can be really fun and special. Now, I always read The Koala Who Could with my students in the first week of school. As the last line of the book states, “life can be great when you try something new.” I want them to know that they will experience a lot of new things in kindergarten, but if they are brave enough to try their best, there is a whole world of opportunities for them to explore.

How has being digital affected your teaching style? Share your feelings and how digital teaching has been going.

I am loving teaching digitally! It is going better than I could have ever anticipated. Shifting from face-to-face instruction to teaching fully online this year has challenged me to rethink many of my practices in regard to engagement, connection, and assessment. I’ve had to be creative in coming up with activities that build fine motor skills like cutting and writing, activities that foster social-emotional learning, etc. Through this experience, I have also discovered technology tools that deeply enhance the learning experience for students that I will use from now on, even when we return to in-person learning. My students and I have been able to build such a strong class family and community despite being apart physically. Building relationships with my students and their families is one of my favorite things about teaching – being online hasn’t changed that.

What do you miss most about being in the classroom daily since being digital?

I miss getting hugs from my students! We do “air hugs” and the American Sign Language “I love you” sign through the computer each day, but the feeling of having a student’s arms wrap around you and squeeze with all the love they’ve got is something I treasure and will never take for granted again. I also miss having sweet drawings and notes left on my desk. But, this year I’ve still had students bring me pictures at our monthly supply pick-up. It’s a small reminder of the bigger picture of the importance of why we do what we do.


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