Andersen Teacher of the Year
Kelly Whittaker – Second Grade
- Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, Northeastern State University, 2012.
Andersen second grade teacher Kelly Whittaker has been named the Teacher of the Year at her school.
“I always knew I would become a teacher,” Whittaker said. “My interest in teaching began with a Little Golden Book titled We Like Kindergarten. It quickly became my favorite book. I was fascinated with the idea of teaching, and would pretend to be ‘Miss Hall.’ In high school, I completed internships within our local elementary schools and also worked at a private preschool after school. I surrounded myself with opportunities to teach and work with children. Teaching is a profession that can be especially challenging and yet tremendously rewarding. I feel children are precious and amazing, and they deserve to have teachers who believe in them, love them, support and encourage them.”
Whittaker’s perspective on teaching changed after she had children.
“My daughters’ incredible teachers renewed my desire to complete my degree and begin teaching,” Whittaker said. “I watched my children flourish in their teachers’ classrooms, and knew I wanted to learn from their teachers too. Andersen teachers guided me through a wonderful student teaching experience. After completing my internship, I was hired and began my career with Union in August 2012. I taught pre-kindergarten my first year, and then moved to second grade. This is my third year teaching second grade. I love our Andersen family and continue to learn and grow from our outstanding teachers every day.”
Two teaching techniques Whittaker has found to be helpful in the classroom are incorporating students’ interests and cooperative learning groups.
“Students are intrinsically motivated to learn about something in which they are interested,’ she said. “If I can tap into the student’s interest, then he or she will work hard at learning the content. This is where a personal relationship with my students is important. It not only builds trust between us, but also helps guide my individual instruction of each student.”
Cooperative learning groups is another teaching technique she has found find to be very effective.
“Children have amazing minds and are incredible thinkers,” Whittaker said. “They are experts at sharing their opinions, connections and thought processes. I love when a student shares a thought that sparks understanding in another student. When they work as a group, they each bring their unique abilities, interests, experiences, and learning styles together, which makes learning meaningful for each student in the group. In cooperative learning groups, my students are great teachers and I facilitate their learning.”
Whittaker believes Union continues to be a leader in its early childhood programs and in preparing students to be college and career ready.
“The implementation of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum demonstrates Union’s commitment to the changing needs of our students and society,” Whittaker said. “But there are also challenges facing the future of education. How will we address the overabundance of testing, the growing class sizes, the demands facing our students, the lack of much-needed resources, and teacher shortages? I think the future of education in Union and Oklahoma is dependent on how we address these and other challenges facing our district and state. However, I am confident that Union will continue to be a model of excellence due to the dedicated teachers in our district, whose focus will always be on meeting the needs of every child.”
Looking into the future, Whittaker sees herself still in the classroom.
“My heart has always been in teaching and working directly with students, so it is hard to imagine a day without those close interactions,” she said. “I hope to eventually pursue a master’s degree in Reading. I love to teach reading and feel that furthering my education in this area would strengthen my abilities and benefit the students in my classroom.”