Fifth grade teacher Heather Hodges of Cedar Grove Elementary School is one of only 37 educators internationally selected for a Kagan Winter Academy Scholarship.
“I am very excited to be able to travel to Las Vegas in February for the Winter Academy,” Hodges exclaimed. “I will bring back the ideas from my training and directly implement them in my classroom. I will start with one Kagan strategy or structure and then continue to add in more as the students are ready. I will teach the expectations and procedures that accompany these new structures to set our classroom up for success.”
Hodges said Principal Bryan Flachbart is always looking for opportunities for his teachers to hone the craft of teaching and when he arrived at Cedar Grove, he brought the Kagan Structures for Engagement and Achievement with him.
“He asked our staff if we would be interested in receiving more training in the Kagan model and I, along with many other staff members, quickly said yes,” Hodges said.
To apply for an $800 scholarship, interested individuals had to inform the committee about themselves as educators.
“I had to share the logistics of where and what I teach,” Hodges explained. “I also had to share my heart behind education. There were several short essay questions that allowed me to express why I would be so eager to attend this training.”
Hodges learned via email she was a scholarship recipient. Kagan Academy officials reported awarding a total of $22,463 in scholarships to 37 deserving educators, including teachers, administrators, student teachers, and international educators.
“I am sure there were many wonderful applicants for this scholarship. I would guess that my heart for building a strong classroom community is what stood out to the reviewers,” she said. “I seek to create an environment where all students feel valued and accepted. Kagan provides many different strategies that foster this type of classroom community. I expressed how much I wanted to learn more about and grow in these strategies within my application. I think this is what helped secure my scholarship.”
Hodges said she is hoping to gain a multitude of engagement strategies that will increase student achievement in her classroom.
“When students are engaged they pay attention and they remember what they have learned,” she noted. “This is often times because they are the ones constructing their knowledge. They are involved in the process. I hope to find many new and creative ways to teach my fifth grade students. I hope to create an atmosphere that kids look forward to being involved in! I hope to learn strategies that I can employ in the classroom that will create an excitement for learning.”
Hodges said she will “most definitely encourage colleagues to apply for a scholarship if the opportunity presents itself again. In order to be an effective educator, you must be a lifelong learner. Taking advantage of opportunities such as this one fosters the goal of growing and continuously improving as an educator.”
Hodges likes teaching because, for her, it is all about relationships.
“I love getting to know my students. I love learning about their lives both academically and socially,” she said. “I believe that you cannot effectively teach a child that you do not care deeply for. My goal as a teacher is for each child who enters my classroom to feel loved, valued, and important. When these relationships are in place, learning blossoms. I love seeing children grasp a concept they were struggling with. I love to see them stand a little taller because they feel confident and they feel accomplished.”