Teacher Spotlight: Jana Holt

teacher spotlight

This week we introduce another new member to the project, Jana Holt.  She teaches 4th grade ELA at Union Chapel Elementary in the Park Hill School District.

Her students are amazing! She has two groups of kids for the first time. Her morning group is her homeroom, and the afternoon group is a group who looped with their teacher from 3rd grade and have been together for 3rd and now 4th grade. All of these kiddos are amazingly compassionate and many come from diverse homes.

Jana sees herself as a passionate teacher of reading and writing. She has high expectations and strives to create a classroom community that functions like a family.  In her family-like atmosphere, learning comes alive when students feel they have a voice, a choice and a purpose in their learning. They need to feel comfortable with asking questions and investigating within their learning. When their learning can carry over to the real world, students will become more engaged and inspired.

She defines community as a group of people living in the same area and who share places, beliefs and characteristics.  Personally, Jana grew up in a university town where the schools were the hub of the community. In a small town, everyone develops a closeness and commonality among each other.  She describes herself as a homebody who values togetherness. Moving to the city,  she misses this sense of a close knit community where people truly value each other.

At Union Chapel, community is fostered by striving to create consistency among the classrooms. They work hard to incorporate opportunities for cooperative learning and teamwork. This provides a sense of equity among students and therefore a sense of community.

Jana was drawn to this project because she was inspired by the idea of giving kids a view of their community outside of their school and their neighborhood. She values giving students a voice, and the idea of allowing my students’ voices to be heard around the metro area was an opportunity she could not pass up.

Welcome to the project, Jana!  We are so excited to have you!


Teacher Spotlight: Melody Gibeson


teacher spotlight

This week on our blog we get to learn more about new participant, Melody Gibeson.  We are so excited to have her join this project!

Melody teaches third grade at Millennium @ Santa Fe Elementary School in the Hickman Mills Consolidated School District 1.  She has a wonderfully diverse class of 18 students who represent 4 languages and six countries. They are super eager to learn and are very intrinsically motivated.  They love science, poetry and art. They are eager to learn new things and love to explore others cultures as well as learning about their own.  

Learning comes alive for her students when it pertains to the real-world for them.  As such, I am a proponent of project-based learning and teaching.  I feel when you give the kids something they care about, then they will learn more from it.  I also try to make as much of my work as I can be cross-subject rather than subject specific. Millennium @ Santa Fe Elementary is a Project-Based Learning STEAM School and I try to teach accordingly.

As a teacher, Melody has taught 17 years in grades 1-4, all in Hickman Mills.  I believe the key to success for students is respect and belief.  You have to respect your students at all time and they will show the same back.  Also, you must believe in your students. No matter the challenge or trauma a child faces, they will rise to the expectations you set for them.

Melody defines a community as the people and cultures of whom you are surrounded.  Those cultures and people can be the same or different from your own self and culture.  As a white teacher who lives in the community she teaches in, it has helped me understand my students better.   

Community is built in multiple ways.  First, there is the community that students live in.  This is a part of who they are and I, as a teacher, need to familiarize myself with it.  Also, community is built in the school and classroom. The principal sets the tone for how students will be treated and how we work as a family.  Teachers model the community with how we interact with each other. Then there is the crucial part of the classroom. Helping kids recognize and build upon their uniqueness is key to making a community in the class.  When students feel confident enough to ask questions and make mistakes without fear they will get made fun of, then I know I am on my way to being successful.

 Melody became interested in this work because she has only ever taught in Hickman MIlls.  Many of my students only have experience with this neighborhood and area.  I hope that this work will help me be more culturally aware and relevant for my students.  By leading by example, I can encourage my students to see and reach out to other cultures as well.  I hope my students feel confident and proud of their own individual cultures and see how they and their community fits into the Kansas City area and the world at large.

Welcome, Melody!

melody gibeson