When we caught up with teaching veteran Robin Burk, she was just kicking off her Second Step lesson with her first grade class. Second Step is the district’s Social Emotional Learning curriculum that was adopted back in 2019.
“Second Step begins the year with lessons on paying attention and how to handle distractions, which will help them be better learners,” said Burk. “With most of our first graders coming to school with little to no classroom experience after COVID, this program is more important than ever.”
This is a unique year for all of us. For Burk, it’s definitely a year that stands apart — and she should know, as she’s been teaching at Graham Elementary for 30 years. “I have been here so long that I have taught the children of former students,” she said. “The kids are what got me into teaching, and they are what bring me back year after year.”
Even when the year is full of surprises.
“There is never a dull moment in a classroom full of first graders,” she said.
Social Emotional Learning is all about giving students the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions. It helps them achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. These are important lessons for all students, and even more so for students who learn differently and need more supports.
Focus On Social Skills
Kym Marsh teaches Primary FOSS at Graham Elementary. The students she works with range from kindergarten to second grade.
“What I love about Social Emotional Learning is it allows us to reach the child as a whole,” she said. “It really focuses on teaching students what it is like to be a part of a group, how to interact with others and how to accept everyone and how to self regulate.”
Marsh said her students thrive during their time in her class.
“They are seeing things from different perspectives and are really engaged with one another. It allows people from all ability levels to be a part of a group no matter where their skills are at.”
This year marks the 11th year Marsh has been teaching, with 10 of those years at Graham Elementary.
“What I still love about teaching is knowing that for these kids I am their biggest advocate alongside their parents, and to be honest the impact that the kids have on my life is what keeps me going. I learn so much from them. I also have a team that has become family to me, the support that we give each-other is one that is unique. Watching the victories no matter how small or big they may be is truly the greatest reward and gift. These kids truly are the best.”