At Knollwood Heights Elementary School, a Title I building in Rapid City, South Dakota, first-grade teacher Cary Combs has nurtured high student achievement in an innovative, child-centered classroom environment. Guiding her students as a community of learners eager to cooperate and contribute, Combs challenges them in areas such as vocabulary, teaching them difficult words such as "schema" and "horticulturist." She also provides a wide range of reading and writing opportunities, leading students' participation in shared reading, guided reading and independent reading, as well as Writer's Workshop, journal writing and interactive or shared writing. Combs led a successful effort in writing a "Got Books!" proposal through DonorsChoose.org for $500 to buy books for her classroom library. Students have scored high on standardized tests, including those in the Reading Recovery program. A member of the Building Leadership Team since 2002, Combs collaborates with colleagues to examine the school's test results and provide staff development to address areas of need. She is leader of the first-grade team, through which she impacts the effectiveness of other first-grade teachers. Combs has also mentored several new and student teachers. She led a demonstration classroom for several years, serving as a model of effective literacy instruction for local and regional educators to observe. She has also helped recognize student excellence as a member of the Knollwood Mighty Knights Committee.
1995 South Dakota State University, B.A.
1998 University of South Dakota, M.A.
2000 Black Hills State University, El. Ed.
2011 Black Hills Reading Council Co-President