RPECEC Teacher of the Year
Natalie Macrae was named 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year at the Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center.
Macrae started working as a teacher’s assistant in 2009 at Rosa Parks ECEC and after assisting for three years, she decided to pursue her teaching certification.
“I fell in love with the Reggio Emilia philosophy immediately and when I saw how the children benefited from guiding their own learning and learning through play in a warm and inviting environment, I knew that I had to have my own classroom and continue this journey as a certified teacher,” Macrae said. “My original degree is in hotel and restaurant administration but teaching has always been a passion of mine.
“My work with young children started when I was 16 and worked at KinderCare after high school, when I was away from kids through college I felt like a piece was missing, which is why it is no surprise that I went back to education and have made it my career. I feel like I am in my element when I am with kids and being able to do this as my job hardly feels like work because I gain just as much from them as they do from me. For my littles, it is all about the relationship we have and then learning can come and having the children and their parents trust me really means everything to me and makes coming to work a joy.”
And, Macrae points out, she is a Union lifer.
“I went to McAuliffe Elementary from kindergarten to fifth grade and continued through middle school then graduated from Union High school in 2004,” she said. “I chose to work at Union because it is truly the best district and the only district I know and love. I love that Union is diverse, inclusive and progressive. During my time at Union, I have seen the needs of our students change and I have watched Union administration adapt to accommodate those needs. My own school experience and the people I have met through Union, and continue to meet and work alongside with make me proud to say I am a Union Redskin.”
Her favorite subject to teach is art.
“Most of the children are experiencing art materials for the first time and I love how each different material speaks differently to each child,” Macrae said. “I see some children light up when they paint, others excel in making clay sculptures, and some enjoy simple sketching. The way they make representations and express themselves through art allows me to see the world as they do. The growth between their first marks in the beginning of the year and their masterpieces at the end of the year is incredible to witness. My goal for them is that when they leave my classroom they are not only comfortable with the art materials but even more comfortable and confident in themselves as people who have a voice and the ability to express themselves.”
The biggest challenge in the classroom may be advance in technology, Macrae said
“For me, the biggest obstacle in the classroom are the advances in technology over the past nine years and the overuse of ‘screen time’ and tablets for young children,” she said, explaining “I put great pride in providing the children in my class several hands on, highly stimulating, and sensory based learning opportunities throughout their school day and would love for that to carry on into their homes, however many of them are watching several hours of TV or playing on their tablets the minute they leave school. I try to overcome this obstacle by educating and working closely with their parents about the importance of learning through play and the importance of reading and interacting with their children. I do this by keeping constant communication with parents through face- to-face conversations, daily ‘Today We’ reports, and various articles supporting play.”
That said, the future looks great for Macrae.
“ I feel like I am hitting my stride in my teaching journey and want to continue to grow in my craft and continue connecting with and reaching people in the community,” Macrae. “I would love to use my experience to mentor other new and upcoming teachers about the Reggio Emilia philosophy that we practice at the ECEC and possibly work with the Pre-K teachers in the district to implement more of the philosophy at the four-year old level. I am also looking forward to receiving my ESL certification meet the needs of our English learners this year.”
Macrae graduated from Union High School in 2004, and received her Bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University in 2009. She went back for additional coursework at Tulsa Community College and received a Certificate of Mastery in Early Childhood Education.