If there’s one important thing students learn in Mandy Buitenhuis’ fourth-grade class at Cross Creek Charter Academy, it’s that in her classroom, you’re a family. She encourages them to respect their peers and to want what is best for one another.
“It can be very challenging some days, but when you have students who get to school and can’t wait to tell you what happened to them the night before or you get to celebrate those light bulb moments, it’s so great,” said Buitenhuis. “I may be impacting them, but they also impact me and make my life better, too.”
Once or twice a month, she passes out popsicle sticks that each have a students’ name on them, and students are tasked to write a note about something they appreciate about that person.
“Students share their note in front of the class, and they all get to go home feeling a little warm and fuzzy,” said Buitenhuis. “I have found that this activity really helps our classroom culture.”
Buitenhuis works hard to foster appreciation in the classroom, and she encourages them to work together to learn.
“It’s truly amazing how the kids will thrive when you ask them and empower them to teach each other and work together,” said Buitenhuis.
She is aware that there are many ways to explain a concept, and she frequently reminds her students that they may explain it in a way that works for another student. She enables them to encourage and support each other, which strengthens their classroom culture.
When her students are done with their work in the morning, she teaches a group of her top students a quick higher-level concept. Then, students work in groups to see if they can teach each other.
“They absolutely love the challenge and I’ve heard amazing dialogue and learning come from them working together and teaching each other,” said Buitenhuis.
Keep up the amazing work, Mandy!