One of the most important things Brittany Larson teaches her first-graders at Century Elementary School in Grafton, North Dakota: how to take ownership of their learning. Larson, who holds a master’s degree in differentiated instruction, uses data to help her understand each student’s strengths and areas of challenge. She is a leader at Century in standards-based teaching, assessment, and developing and using scales and rubrics. Larson’s young pupils understand their own levels of proficiency and self-check their work on the rubric to determine which skills and content they have mastered and which still need more work. She uses whole-brain teaching to maximize student engagement and keep her classroom running smoothly. Larson’s students support one another, celebrate individual and whole-class accomplishments, and love to learn. When the class earns a celebration, they often choose a Science Party, where they dress up in goggles and lab coats and spend an hour “playing” with the high school science teacher.
Larson strives for continuous improvement in her teaching, pursuing excellence in her craft by adding new tools to her pedagogical tool box. Though Century does not have a formal gifted-and-talented program, Larson uses her differentiation skills to develop opportunities for high achievers within her grade level. A mentor teacher, she eagerly opens her classroom for observation and models effective practices for Century staff. Larson also modeled lessons during a visit from Marzano Research, which uses some of her recorded lessons in its teacher training work across the U.S. She serves on building and district committees for academic standard assessments, goal-setting, curriculum development and special education. Larson pursues professional development opportunities and has presented to staff on oppositional-defiant behavior and MTSS (multi-tier system of supports). She constantly brings new research-based ideas to Century’s weekly professional learning community meetings and pilots new programs so she can train others in the district.
Larson prioritizes getting to know her students and their families, attending sporting events and ice skating performances, volunteering in the community, and starting a summer reading program. Larson holds a special place in her heart for students struggling with serious social, emotional and behavior problems; she connects with, loves and supports them, working side-by-side with parents, specialists and outside agencies to help her students grow. Children in her class know they are wanted, feel welcome, and believe they can be successful. Perhaps the strongest testimonial to her lasting influence: Former students say they want to be first-grade teachers just like her.
Larson earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2008 from University of Minnesota, Duluth and a master’s in differentiated instruction in 2017 from Concordia University.
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