Katie Orlando said she felt “honored” to be named Discovery Ridge’s Teacher of the Year. Her passion for kids is evident, and after teaching preschool for three years, Orlando is now in her fourth year of teaching the first grade.
Orlando earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and went on to receive her master’s degree from . Teaching children is what she always had a passion for.
“I always knew I loved being around kids, and I think it was just something that fell into place,” she said. “I love it. I don’t ever wake up and not want to come to work. Every day is something new, and just seeing their faces makes everything better.”
Talk to any of her students, and it’s easy to see that they feel comfortable in the classroom.
“She’s such a nice teacher, and she’ll always help us with anything,” one student said.
Not only do the students make Orlando feel at home at Discovery Ridge, but the whole school feels like a close-knit community.
“I felt very supported by the staff to be chosen for this honor,” Orlando said.
A great deal of fundamental learning happens in first grade, including the building blocks of mathematics, reading and writing.
“They make so much growth in first grade, and it’s really neat to see them engaging in their learning. It’s really great to see the successes they are having with their reading levels and learning new words.”
Beyond the knowledge they gain in this pivotal year, Orlando strives to build the character of each child and develop community in the classroom.
“Not everyone is going to get along every day, but we really do a lot of conflict resolution where I really try to teach the kids to work out their problems and to be self-starters when things come up,” Orlando said.
Every year is different and every child is different, but Orlando strives to maintain her philosophy that all of the children need to be met where they are currently and given what they need individually. As the children change, her approach to this mission also adapts to fit each child.
“Every year, you have different ability levels, and you have different personalities and behaviors that challenge you to think differently of how you’ve taught before,” Orlando said.
With 22 first-graders in one classroom, Orlando knows the importance of finding the balance in teaching those students who are struggling along with those students who may excel more rapidly. She strives to help all the children meet their full potential.
“I don’t know that you ever master balancing all of that, but you get better at helping everyone and dealing with the different things that are going on,” Orlando said.
Orlando spends eight hours each day with these students, and she does not take this responsibility lightly. Before any learning begins, she wants each student to feel at home in her classroom and know that they are loved and cared for.
“They need to know that they are in a safe, caring environment before they trust you to learn,” Orlando said.
Orlando wants every child to leave her classroom with a love for learning and a continued love for school, and she also wants all the students to take with them a strong foundation of their character.
“Deep down in my heart I just want that confidence for them in themselves in knowing that they can make mistakes or get the wrong answer or have a problem with somebody, but know they get through it and stick up for themselves and figure things out.”
Teacher of the Year
A Teacher of the Year was chosen at each school in the School District.
According to the district, the teacher of the year is chosen based on the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues. The selection also is based on the teacher's ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities.
What do you think makes a great teacher? Tell us in the comments.