Kristen Maurer’s kindergarteners build literacy skills that set them up for success throughout their time at Ohio’s Midvale Elementary School. Maurer incorporates Fundations, a reading program that aligns with the Orton-Gillingham principles of phonics and phonological awareness, as well as the Daily 5™ framework to encourage students to read independently, work in pairs and practice writing. She plans engaging field trips: The class visited a local pet shop for lessons in literacy, math and interpersonal interaction, then returned to school and set up their own “pet shop” in the classroom to practice their new skills.
Maurer leads Midvale’s kindergarten professional learning community in setting goals for reading, math and writing, poring over student learning data to make sure each child has the opportunity to thrive. She developed “Building Better Braves,” an afterschool program in which teachers offer extra help to close achievement gaps. More than three-quarters of Maurer’s students meet expected levels of learning on MAP assessments, and many end the year performing one or more years ahead. Every one of Maurer’s former students has gone on to pass Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Maurer considers social-emotional learning just as important as letters and numbers. Each day, students choose one of five behaviors they want to focus on: walking feet, safe hands, listening ears, watching eyes, kind words. This is especially important for children who missed out on preschool. The class sings songs about respecting and caring for one another, paired with kinesthetic hand motions to improve retention. Every week, Maurer chooses one student to stand at the door greeting classmates with their choice of a handshake, hug or high five. The coveted position builds both self-esteem and critical social skills like listening, empathy and understanding.
A hometown hero who graduated from Indian Valley schools and hails from a family of educators, Maurer leads Midvale’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team, represents the school for the Indian Valley Foundation, and serves on the building leadership team. When Midvale’s early grades moved to standards-based reporting, she helped develop the scales for each standard. Maurer has led professional development on conscious discipline and mentors teachers for the school’s Resident Educator Program. Expressive, caring and genuine, Maurer is quick to share student success stories and brings passion and energy to everything from researching new teaching practices to bus duty. She makes learning fun, even during the remote and hybrid instruction made necessary by the pandemic. “They are my world!” says Maurer of her students—and no one around her doubts it for a second.
Maurer earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education in 2014 from Ashland University.
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