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Teacher Feature: A Morning with the First Grade Team

By Chloe McCarthy

Kingsley Communications Manager

Picture this.

It's 7:45AM on Valentine's Day at Kingsley Elementary School. The lights haven't turned all the way on yet and the building is quiet. The whir of the copy machine echoes through the front entrance. Teachers walk briskly down the halls, many with a coffee tumbler in hand, getting ready for the day that will be full of cards, sweets, treats, and love. On Valentine's Day morning, I spent time with the first grade team to learn more about who they are, and what they love about their class.

Katy Giglio

It’s 8:00AM now and Mrs. Giglio is playing tranquil instrumental tracks over her classroom speakers as she gets ready for the day. Her room is empty, but in the next ten minutes, the spa-like soundscape is replaced by dozens of laughing children who are excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Their excitement for everything is one of her favorite things about the age group. And while all first graders possess that whimsy she loves, she says this year’s group is one of her favorites of all time.

"They are just so fun. They get excited about the littlest things. At this age, everything's just so fun for them still, they still really like school and they're happy to come in the morning. This year’s group is really great, they get along really well, they work together in groups and teams really well, and they're very hard workers. I'm so happy to come to school happy every day," said Mrs. Giglio.

"I just love teaching writing, personally. That's my favorite. Right now, we're doing informational writing and the kids write about stuff they know about and things they’re passionate about. I see the growth and progress in that which is super exciting. Sometimes I read some funny things. Like, ‘what do you want to be when you grew up?’ and they say, ‘I want to be a babysitter!’ That is just so sweet and so genuine. The core of everything is the growth of making amazing little humans that are hard workers, have good work ethic, and are just genuinely sweet, nice people."

Meredith Jarrold

I caught up with Mrs. Jarrold as her kids began trickling into the classroom. Mrs. Jarrold wears a wide smile on her face as she talks about the joys of teaching first grade. She’s been in the role for six years, and it’s evident she’s a complete pro: between every few sentences, she pauses to address several interjections from her students, one hands her a Valentine’s Day present, another asks where to leave their coat, and several more come over just to say good morning. In the chaos of the morning rush, Mrs. Jarrold remains completely unfazed, maybe even unaware, of her multitasking superpowers.

"My favorite part of first grade is their passion for everything. Teaching them to read is my favorite thing in the entire world. Watching them go from knowing a couple of letter sounds to reading a book by the end of the year is incredible," says Mrs. Jarrold.

"I would love the community to know that you can learn so much from a six-year-old. Their minds are full of amazing knowledge. They're sponges and love learning. If you spend the day with a six-year-old your day will definitely be better."

Jenifer Wolf

Mrs. Wolf has been a first grade teacher in Kingsley Area Schools for 14 years. She’s seen it all and has watched several of her groups go all the way through school to graduation. It’s something she says is both beautiful and bizarre. She admits she doesn’t always remember every name, but she remembers every face, and often their adventures from their time in first grade. “They'll come back to me and say ‘Mrs. Wolf, do you remember me?’ and sometimes it's like, ‘yeah, I remember you, you broke your arm the year you were in my class!’”

“Probably my favorite thing is seeing the light bulb go off when they're learning to read. All of the sudden, they just start reading. Reading is a huge part of first grade, they make the biggest gains this year! Socially, there’s a lot of building friendships and learning how to sit just a little bit longer periods of time to learn. My favorite part about first graders is their honesty; what they're thinking in their mind comes out of their mouth."

Jason Blyth

Mr. Blyth is brand new to Kingsley Area Schools and to the profession itself; 2022-2023 marks his first-ever school year as a first grade teacher! He’s spent the past 21 years as a Navy and Coast Guard helicopter pilot and flight instructor. His final duty station was in Traverse City where he decided to settle with his family and pursue a degree in education. Now, instead of piloting a helicopter, he flies through his classroom diffusing problems and keeping his class on course. In the first few minutes of the day, I watch Mr. Blyth hand out worksheets, greet his student, locate a pencil, help a student with a math problem, and work one-on-one with another child on phonetics.

“I have a highly energetic and enthusiastic class. I like seeing the kids grow as they explore the world around them and learn how to interact with each other in a classroom setting. The leaps they make in reading and math during the course of the first grade year are truly remarkable. The goals for first grade are reading fluency with good word decoding skills, basic paragraph writing, and independence in math reasoning for addition and subtraction operations.”

Madison Boyd

As soon as you enter Ms. Boyd's classroom, you're greeted with rainbows. They adorn encouraging posters, the "behavior chart," filing cabinets, name tags, and even her classroom door. "When I walked in this room during my interview and school tour, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I love this classroom, I love the decorations, this is totally my style.'" she said. The room and its decor belonged to first grade teacher Mrs. Bielas before she switched to teaching PE just a few weeks before schools started this year. When the classroom opened up, it was assigned to Ms. Boyd, rainbows and all. That's when Ms. Boyd knew the job was meant to be!

"I've always heard great things about Kingsley. I'm friends with Kindergarten teacher Felicia Mondry, and she actually let me know that there was an opening. It was a whirlwind. I love first grade. They're just adorable. They have this passion where they want to learn, they want to be here. They want to like hear me talk and they want to learn the concepts and I love seeing when the light bulb goes off, and they actually are like understanding and they can use what we're learning and other you know, areas of the day."


To learn more about Kingsley Elementary, click here, or call 231-263-5261.

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