By CRISTINA JANNEY
When you are a student in Kayla North's kindergarten class at Holy Family Elementary School, everything is an adventure.
This includes learning your letters with Bee-Bots, learning to draw with ArtHub or getting your giggles out with a dance from GoNoodle.
Jami Breit's son is in North's class. She nominated North for the Hays Post Teacher of the Month Award.
"Mrs. North always goes above and beyond for her students," Breit said. "All of my boys have had her, and all of them have loved her.
"She updates the parents and keeps us actively involved in what the children are doing, which is wonderful because I think it really shows that she cares about each one of them."
Breit said North makes learning fun and is quick to adapt technology in the classroom.
"My son always comes home happy to have been at school and showing me all he has learned," Breit said. "Mrs. North has a loving heart and is always making time for the kids."
North, who's been a teacher for 12 years, said teaching kindergarten allows her to be uniquely herself.
"You can be silly. You can be serious, and they love you the same," she said.
Kindergarten-age children love to learn, North said. They love doing a simple math problems the same as they love to read or do a craft.
"They come in and say, 'What are we doing for math today?!' 'What are we doing for reading today?!' Even if it's just a regular math lesson, they're ready to do it, and they'll go home and tell their parents about it," she said.
North is a huge fan of Dr. Seuss and incorporates a Dr. Seuss week into her lessons every year.
"I have loved Dr. Seuss as long as I can remember," North said. "My grandma had a set of Dr. Seuss books, and I can remember thumbing through them growing up ... couldn't read them yet."
When North was teaching second grade, her entire room was Dr. Seuss-themed. She had a chair she and her mother had covered in fake blue fur to represent Thing One and Thing Two.
One of the boys in her class was having behavior problems, but he loved sitting in that blue fuzzy chair.
"He would do anything to sit in that chair," she said. ... "He's in high school now, but his mother said he still remembers that fuzzy chair."
Last year, North and her co-teacher turned the week into a series of STEM lessons, borrowing ideas from Pinterest. The kids played with kinetic sand, and North always caps off the week by dressing up as the Cat in the Hat.
The kids in North's class are learning basic coding through Bee-Bots, which are about the size of an adult palm. They are yellow and black and look like smiling bees. The kids press buttons on the bee's backs to tell them were to travel on a grid on the floor.
North incorporates reading by having a child program the Bee-Bot to go to a specific letter or rhyming word. The kids can program the Bee-Bots for multiple stops to spell words. North is ordering jackets for the Bee-Bots so they can hold pencils and the kids can use them to draw letters.
"They're getting the same material, but in a fun way," North said.
The kindergartners at Holy Family go to school for the full day. North said having brain breaks for the kids is important. She uses technology for that sometimes as well.
GoNoodle is a free app that lets the kids watch short funny videos. Many of them include funny songs or dances so the kids can be active when they can't go outside for recess or they're just getting fidgety.
"Sometimes we will literally just stand and shake our arms and be silly," North said.
Art Hub is a YouTube channel that was created by a dad and shows kids how to step by step draw fun images. North uses the art lessons in conjunction with the students' letters of the week.
The children draw the images, can take pictures of the art with their iPads and then share them with their parents on a secure online account.
"I just want to show kids they can learn and have fun at the same time," North said. "I'm not normally a serious person, so I want to show the kids that it's OK to make mistakes and it's OK to have fun. I want kids to enjoy school and get the most of it as they possibly can."
Kindergarten can fun, but it also can be rough. Some of the kids come to Holy Family as kindergartners and have never been to school before.
There's a lot more tears in kindergarten, North said. She hopes everything is good for the kids at home. Holy Family has many great families, but you never really know what is going on at home, and the kids don't know how to tell you what's wrong, she said.
"You never know when something's going on," she said. "They might come in crying, but they can't tell you why or they might start crying and you might ask them what's wrong and 'I don't know.' They just can't communicate that.
"Just having the patient. 'OK, take a minute. It'll be OK.' Take their mind off of it. We'll go for walks in the hallway. We'll do a silly dance, just something to get their mind off it. But you never know what they're going through."