LITTLE SPONGES: Teacher of the year discusses the joys of teaching kindergartenPublished 12:16am Wednesday, February 13, 2013
CHOCOWINITY—Penny Miller will be the first to tell you, kindergarten just isn’t what it used to be.
Growing up in Craven County, Miller said there was no public kindergarten. She attended a church’s kindergarten class.
“I remember singing, playing with friends and toys,” she said.
These days, Miller’s Chocowinity Primary School kindergarteners are counting by fives to 100. They are identifying stories as fiction and nonfiction, taking reading tests on class computers and even writing stories of their own.
“With new national standards, the Common Core, they do have a lot to learn. But surprisingly, they get it. They just absorb everything like little sponges,” Miller said. “They need to have a very strong foundation to be successful throughout school and careers.”
Miller said parents can help with that foundation. It is important to send them to kindergarten with skills teachers can build on, like recognizing the letters in their own name, knowing shapes and colors.
Students are individually assessed and Miller tries to meet the needs of every individual child and challenge them to learn more.
She has taught kindergarten at Chocowinity Primary School for the last six years.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s my favorite because it’s such a joy to see them blossom and grow. And they grow so much in kindergarten.”
Miller is Beaufort County Schools’ teacher of the year. Teachers at CPS voted for a teacher from each grade level. A second peer vote chose the top teacher from the finalists.
“It was a great honor to be chosen by your peers, the people you work with. It as a surprise and I think it speaks of the school, as a whole.” she said. “I work with wonderful people and we work as a team. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.”
Teachers plan their lessons together every week. They share ideas and are very close, Miller said.
She works closest with a class assistant, Debbie Carrow, she has had for the last six years.
“We’re a good team, almost to the point we read each other’s minds,” Miller said.
Before being selected by the school board to represent BCS in a regional teacher of the year competition, Miller had to prepare as portfolio.
The portfolio had eight sections that asked questions about Miller’s philosophy on teaching and her reasons for being a teacher.
Miller came from a long line of teachers. Her dad was a teacher and administrator who retired from the community college system. She has cousins, aunts, uncles and siblings who are teachers.
Miller had to explain the platform she would have if she was chosen as the state’s teacher of the year. In a highly stressful year of changes and new standards for teachers, Miller chose passion as her platform.
“Don’t lose your passion for teaching. Don’t forget the reason why you wanted to become a teacher,” she said. “Just keep your focus that you are doing something good. You’re playing an important part of getting children ready… and things will work