By Megan Shaw –
Bonnie Lilly has just started her thirty-third year of teaching at Corbett Grade School. Through these years, teaching fads and programs have come and gone. Every decade seemed to bring a new “focus” for educators. One might think when you’re at the point in your career that Bonnie is, it would be simple to do the easiest thing by putting in the minimum time required and not continue to grow professionally. If one believed this about a veteran teacher, then they have not met Mrs. Lilly.
For years, the teachers at Corbett Grade School have taught in multi-age classrooms of two grade levels. During the last three school years, Bonnie and the other primary teachers at Corbett have taught in multi-age classrooms that span three grades: kindergarten through second grade. People who are unfamiliar with this classroom configuration shake their heads in disbelief: “How can this work”? “Not Possible”! “Huh”? These are all murmurings teachers of multi-age classrooms hear frequently.
Seeing Bonnie’s approach to multi-age in action will silence even the most fervent skeptic. It is like watching a master juggler at work. She uses a rotation of centers to accommodate the various skills and needs of her students. The morning is comprised of language arts centers, which span from learning letters to reading and responding to chapter books. The numbers of each group fluctuate depending on when a student is ready to move to another group. For a given amount of time she meets with a group while the other kids work from folders or participate in class projects or activities. She has designed her math hour in the same fashion.
Bonnie believes that the use of centers allows her to meet children’s individual needs while providing the structure that helps young children feel secure. She says, “The centers are consistent, predictable and routine, the children know what is expected of them”. When they are not meeting with her, everyone just gets to work.
Bonnie’s experience is an asset to our staff. Her generosity in sharing ideas and strategies has helped her colleagues many times in their own personal growth.