Kendra Britt, a new first grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, learned a lot about teaching from her aunt, Daryl Sigg.
Sigg is the library media specialist for McKinley and Lincoln schools.
Britt grew up in Iola. As a student at Iola High School, she served as a mentor for younger students alongside her aunt.
In an effort to model her aunt, Britt said she was impressed with how she addressed students.
“It was always with respect. Always calm,” Britt said. “I learned how to treat students and how to talk to them and how to get the best response from them.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Sigg inspired Britt to become a teacher.
Britt began teaching second grade at Jefferson, but left the profession about five years ago when she moved out of state.
She’s back now, out of a desire to be closer to family and a love of teaching.
She’s also back in school herself, pursuing a master’s degree in library media.
Again, not surprisingly, she wants to be like her aunt.
FAMILY PLAYED a big role in Britt’s teaching style.
In addition to her aunt’s influence, Britt also was inspired by her parents, Michael and Vickie Britt.
They’re both accountants, so it’s only natural that Britt grew up with a love of numbers and math.
That added up to incorporating a class “store” into her teaching methods. Students earn points each day for positive behaviors, and the points translate to dollars to spend for trinkets at a store on Fridays. Britt doesn’t like to take away points for bad behavior, but it can happen.
The store reinforces positive behavior, teaches math skills such as adding and subtracting, and also teaches life skills such as responsibility, obeying rules, and negotiating between wants and needs.
She started the store when she taught second grade, and wasn’t sure how well first-graders would understand the concepts.
“I’m impressed at how well they picked it up,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons she enjoys teaching the younger ages.
“They’re like sponges,” she said. “Anything you say or teach them, they’ll remember and bring it up the next day. You never know what they’re going to say.”
At last Friday’s store, for example, a student asked the price of a bouncy ball. It was $10.
“Ten dollars?” the student exclaimed. “Wow, that’s pricey.”
BRITT’S RETURN to teaching comes at a very unusual time, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Students are facing new rules and regulations designed to protect their health and the health of others. That includes such things as social distancing, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and frequently washing hands, and using plastic shields at their desks. Recess is limited to one class at a time. Students must spread out to eat lunch.
That’s where the adaptability comes in handy, Britt said.
“It’s been better than I expected,” she said. “Social distancing is still a struggle though, especially at recess.”
Because students aren’t able to socialize with other classes, Britt tries to arrange activities where they can talk with each other and maintain peer interaction.