Kindergarten teacher Laura Reece is Alpha Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. A 21-year educator, has been a member of the Alpha faculty for the past eight years.
Reece earned a bachelor degree from East Tennessee State University and a master’s from Tusculum University.
As a kindergarten teacher, Reece said it is her responsibility to ensure that students have a lifelong love for learning and feel safe in a school environment. “For most of my students, being in my classroom is their first school experience,” she said. “Many feel scared and timid. Therefore, I strive to make students feel important, valued, and loved. Reece said she wants to make school fun so children are enthusiastic about learning. I believe that creating and maintaining positive communication with my students and their parents/guardians is critical for success in the classroom,” she said. “Building relationships with students and families is a priority, so that they feel comfortable asking for help in order to continue learning at home.”
The foundation for learning begins in kindergarten, Reece noted.
“I strive to implement research-based reading instruction consistently,” she said. “To prevent reading failure, I must have good scientific knowledge and understand how reading is developed. It includes sounding out words, using picture clues, memorizing sight words, developing comprehension, and fluency.
“Children must be taught a strong sense of both phonemic and phonological awareness before learning to read and write independently,” she said. “Each skill builds upon another, so teaching in steps is essential. I teach phonics daily and strive to make it rigorous so that students will master blending and segmenting new words and incorporate phonics into their writing.”
Reece says, “I feel strongly that teaching the science of reading through phonics will effectively instill confidence in young readers, so that they are affluent readers, writers and communicators,” she said.
Another teaching strategy Reece believes is essential to learning is using songs with motions to teach certain skills, facts, and for ‘brain breaks’ between lessons for children to wiggle and stretch. She states, “There is an abundance of research that proves there is a strong connection between the brain, movement and music. Over time and much advanced technology, this has become a common strategy in my elementary classroom.”
An important life skill that Reece strives to implement is instilling good manners, positivity and kindness into her classroom. “I know that in doing so I have to teach respect and model it for everyone,” Reece said. “At the beginning of each year, I teach students a version of the song ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ My motto is, ‘Let your light shine,’” she shared.
In teaching this, her goal is to help students understand that it does not matter what anyone around us is doing, that we are to make our own choices because actions have consequences.
Many lessons throughout Reece’s career have been centered around ways to be kind to others. Last year, a colleague at Alpha Elementary started a Kindness Club. “When I found out, I asked if she needed any teacher volunteers,” she said. “Luckily, I was asked to attend a monthly meeting with the group (students in grades K-2 who were given permission to stay after school). Meetings consisted of a story, role play, discussion, and new ways to show kindness to everyone.” This year, due to the pandemic, the club is unable to meet in person, however, acts of kindness are recognized and shared in morning announcements. Our intention is to encourage all students and staff to be kind and encourage one another.
“The students in my class this year pay close attention to acts of kindness,” Reece said. “It is a blessing to hear them encourage one another and sometimes go out of their way to do something nice and show love to someone. Thankfully, most students are following through with this in our community.”
At Alpha, Reece sponsors the yearbook staff, the school health team, student council, and Walking Club.
A member of Manley Baptist Church, she is a Vacation Bible School co-teacher for kindergarteners. She supports her husband, as he is a leader of a Sunday small group.
Reece’s husband of 20 years, Jack, works in human resources for Old Dominion Freight Line. Her son, Holden, is a freshman this year at West High School. They love to spend time outdoors hiking, kayaking, and biking.