In Dale Blaess’s classroom at Underwood Elementary in Newport, RI, the literal meaning of kindergarten — “garden of children” in German — is abundantly clear. Her class flourishes with 5- and 6-year-old minds. When her students leave kindergarten, 75 percent of them are functioning at a first-grade level in phonemic awareness. All are reading, writing and speaking English — including those who didn’t know the difference between letters and numbers when they first started school.
Her classroom practices are rooted in research-based instruction and ongoing assessments to pinpoint areas in which students are struggling. Blaess encourages hands-on interaction in a small group setting, with a management style focused on allowing students to become independent learners. Additionally, she integrates technology into each day, implemented a Reading Olympics, and helped develop a literacy program targeting English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers. She even pairs her kindergartners with fourth-graders who mentor them during collaborative projects.
A versatile educator, Blaess sits on the kindergarten and social studies curriculum committees and facilitated districtwide grade-level meetings for kindergarten. Moreover, Blaess led the school’s transition into a Title I facility and provides professional development in Newport and other districts. A volunteer for various activities, including coordinating the literacy program, she collaborates with other teachers on how to use student data to inform instruction. From presenting new ideas to leading the charge in changing the way teachers teach, Dale Blaess is blooming with talent.
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