Jessica Kavitz’s young students rarely sit still — and that’s by design. Kavitz, who teaches kindergarten at Meadowlark Elementary in Buffalo knows that movement engages students’ brains and helps them process and retain information. She borrows basketballs and other sports equipment from the school gym to coordinate with books the class is reading and encourages students to hop, leap, crawl and do push-ups as they move through learning stations. Interspersing physical activities like cup-stacking and agility ladders with reading, writing and math tasks helps Kavitz “wake up” her young learners’ brains as they absorb and master new skills. Kavitz takes a project-based approach that includes trips to the park and other local attractions, often on foot. On the day students learn about red during a unit on colors, everyone wears red clothing, they cut apple shapes out of red construction paper with scissors, and parents bring in red snacks for the class to enjoy. Kavitz follows the standards and knows which skills students need to advance to the next stage of learning. Her methods deliver. Last year, her students’ reading proficiency grew from 62% to 92%, and from 94% to 100% in math.
Kavitz runs Meadowlark’s weekly professional learning community for kindergarten and sits on the school’s Guiding Coalition, which tackles issues like data, curriculum, student and staff safety, and parental involvement. She helped evaluate a new science curriculum, mentors student teachers, and takes teachers who move to kindergarten from other grade levels under her wing as they adjust to their new classroom. Kavitz had already begun integrating technology into her classroom before buildings closed for COVID in 2020, so her students easily transitioned to using Chromebooks at home for independent activities and weekly classroom meetings online. When Meadowlark reopened, Kavitz was among the first to welcome parent volunteers, moving learning stations outside so they could safely join the class.
Social-emotional learning plays a large role in kindergarten, and Kavitz turns many activities into exercises in self-reflection. She offers writing prompts like “What can you do independently?” and “What makes you awesome?”, teaching vocabulary and language skills while reinforcing feelings of pride and self-worth. A well-known leader and hometown hero in Buffalo, Kavitz developed her love for teaching at home — her mother was an educator for three decades in Gillette.
Kavitz earned a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Reading Education in 2009 from Eastern Washington University and received National Board Certification in 2020.
"I love learning, and I want to share that love with children, because learning is what's going to take anybody anywhere in their..." (read more)
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2012 M.A., Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading, Black Hills State University
2009 B.A., Major: Reading, Minor: Early Childhood Education, Eastern Washington University