Q&A: Fourth Grade teachers share reasons for teaching + more

With a combined 43 years of teaching experience, Fourth Grade teachers Becky Cooper, Brittni King and Jennifer Thomas are not shy about their passion for teaching students. We caught up with the trio of Kalama Elementary School educators to learn a bit more about their profession, what their students have learned this year, and what they're excited to work on next.

Teachers: Becky Cooper, Brittni King, Jennifer Thomas
Combined years of teaching experience: 43

Why do you teach? 

Teaching is my calling. I love watching kids grow throughout the year as individuals – not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well. Being a teacher allows you to be a part of their life in a way that they will never forget. You have the opportunity to make an impact that will last the rest of their lives. I have several teachers that made a significantly positive impact on me growing up and I want to be that same teacher for my students.” – Becky Cooper

“I teach because I believe kids are capable of great things. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the light click on.” – Brittni King

“I teach because I love being able to see the growth in each student – academically, socially and emotionally, each year. When I physically see the “aha! Moment,” it makes the long teaching hours worth it. I love seeing students from former years, how they continue to grow and who they become as a person. Making a difference in students' lives and making connections with families is very rewarding. After 22 years of teaching, I can’t imagine doing a different profession.” – Jennifer Thomas 

What have students in your classes learned about so far this year? 

Apart from the required subjects in Fourth Grade like reading, writing and math, our students are learning to adapt and be flexible in this ever-changing world. They are learning how to rise above challenges and make the best of difficult situations. We work on teaching compassion, empathy and community in our rooms. Academically, we love to do project-based learning like Turkey Disguises, Ice Cream Sundae Multiplication, Holidays Around the World, a Pioneer Simulation, and Wax Museum.”

What is the Holidays Around the World project?

“Holidays Around the World is one of our favorite projects every year. The students make a passport and we pretend to travel to different countries around the world to learn about their holiday traditions. Each country we ‘visit’ includes not only information about their culture and customs, but an art project or game specific to that country. They get a plane ticket to each location, sample traditional food and listen to a read-aloud book from that country. The students love pretending to travel and learning about different places and how their holiday celebrations are similar or different to ours. We travel to Israel, Germany, Italy, Mexico and China. Ordinarily, at the end of our unit we invite the families of the students in for a Christmas breakfast. It’s one of the highlights of the year.”

What are your students working on next? 

“In the Spring we’ll have our Wax Museum project, which has become a community favorite. Each fourth grader will pick a famous person from history to research and dress up as. They’ll create a timeline of their life, draw a portrait of them, trace and color a backdrop to stand in front of, and prepare a monologue about their life. Dressed in character, students will be in the gym standing still and waiting for someone to come and listen to their monologue. The kids are so excited for this project since most of them have grown up watching their older siblings do it (or they’ve walked through and watched their peers/friends do it). Many of our fourth graders know who they want to be before they even get into Fourth Grade!” 

Look for more educator spotlights on our website and in our district's quarterly newsletter, Hilltopics.