Kayla Woodke says while she was growing up in a small town in northwest Iowa, she dreamed one day of being a teacher in the Des Moines area.
After graduating from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids in 2010, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a reading endorsement, she fulfilled that dream when she landed her first teaching job at Hillside Elementary School in West Des Moines. She recently completed her third year of work leading second grade students there.
“I love the kids, and I love the school,” says Woodke. “Second graders are eager to please, and they’re always excited to be here. They keep me on my toes, and they give me hugs every day.”
When we visited with Woodke in late May, she was wrapping up the school year in which she was preparing her 25 students for third grade. During the year her students developed a variety of skills, from improving their reading comprehension, to sharpening their ability to add and subtract double digits in math assignments. Along the way, they also learned about Japan in a social studies unit in which they drank tea and ate with chopsticks.
“Learning about other cultures helps students realize there is more to the world than their community,” Woodke says.
Sometimes Woodke turns to song to teach students lessons on topics such as continents and oceans.
“I love to sing to my class,” she says. “I might just sing a little song. They’re songs that have to do with what they’re learning.”
Before completing her third year at Hillside, Woodke was already contemplating what to improve upon for the following school year.
“One of the biggest parts of teaching is reflection. I’ll remember what worked during the school year and apply it next year. It’s also nice to talk to other teachers and see what works for them. That’s one of the many things I like about Hillside,” she says.