|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Wednesday, 11 May 2011 00:00|
She reclines on the carpet of the classroom, knees folded beneath her, her body propped up by one hand as she points to a pile of colorful tiles with the other. Her long, red hair hangs to the side.
The walls are covered with shapes, colors, numbers, letters and photographs, including shots of the moon landing.
Two boys, ages 5 and 6, listen to her attentively. They appear to be in competition to please their teacher, Elaine Anderson, a educator of 40 years who retires at the end of the school year.
Founder of St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Anderson said choosing which tiles are lighter and which are darker teaches her students the concept of shades of color.
She speaks softly, coaxing one boy to choose correctly. When he does, he looks to Anderson for approval, which she gives immediately with a smile and an encouraging word.
A preschool and animal science teacher at St. Joseph’s for five years, Anderson was sitting on the floor with one of perhaps a dozen small groups of preschoolers engaged in the projects Monday, May 9.
One group stacked blocks with illustrations of buildings and animals. As the stack grew, each pointed to identify illustrations on the blocks.
Another group set up a tiny farm with toy animals and structures. One member of the group, a girl, occasionally called out “cock-a-doodle-doo” to no one in particular.
“That’s Montessori,” Anderson said.
St. Joseph’s offers Montessori-based preschool and kindergarten classes as well as a traditional kindergarten through eighth-grade program.
Anderson said Montessori teaches by giving students independence, freedom within limits, and by respecting their natural psychological development. It is the method of education she believes is best.
“No two days are alike here,” she said. “Every day a light bulb goes on.”
Her greatest joy is the moment a child reads for the first time.
“I’m just floating on air when that happens,” she said.
Discipline is never a problem, she said.
“I give them just a few, simple rules to follow — speak softly, keep your hands to yourself, don’t run in the classroom — and then I turn to them and ask, ‘Is that too hard for you?’”
Of course, the children agree the rules are not too difficult to follow.
“Then when we have a small infraction, I just say to them, ‘Remember, you said this wouldn’t be too hard for you.’ I put it right back on them. I’ve never had a problem with discipline,” she said.
Anderson’s decision to retire from education, prompted by the illnesses of her father and husband, doesn’t mean she won’t stay engaged and active at the school.
She plans to continue at St. Joseph’s in a limited capacity, hosting animal science projects and substitute teaching if needed.
She also plans to continue raising livestock on her Cornville farm, including chickens, rabbits and goats. She said she milks the goats every 12 hours to accumulate the liquid fats she needs to make several varieties of goat cheese for her family and the local farmers markets.
A move to Southern France someday, inspired by a recent backpacking trip with her daughter, is not outside the realm of possibility, she said.
“I fell in love with Southern France,” she said.
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