Kagan Summer Academy

Teacher(s) - Melissa Sender
School(s) - Pleasant Hill Elementary


Goal / ObjectiveWith Student Excellence Foundation support, Melissa Sender, Kindergarten teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary, was able to attend the Kagan Cooperative Learning Summer Academy where she learned with and from other educators. Her particular interest was in activities and strategies that would help her to create a “Brain Friendly” classroom.  This approach involves educating students in ways that truly engage a deeper level of understanding, including opportunities to apply ideas in hands-on ways and to reflect on material as it is learned.  Sender suggests that even for kindergarten, this brain-friendly approach has significant benefits and can result in long-term, more meaningful retention of classroom material.

Impact - Sender notes that as a result of her attendance at the summer institute, and the application of that knowledge to her teaching, she has seen “significant growth academically” in her students, especially with counting and letter sound identification.  Consider that Sender reports a “96% growth” in sight word acquisition, “with an average of 19 additional words.”  But perhaps most critically, she also saw what she describes as “equally marked growth in student engagement and appropriate social interaction.”  Not only has Sender noticed greater classroom participation, but she has also noticed a basic change in her students to a growth mindset, where even so-called “failure”--making a mistake--is understood as a fundamental and integral part of the learning process.

And while learning has certainly improved in Sender’s own classroom, there is real opportunity to expand impact to across the school, as Sender has already presented what she has learned to colleagues and received very positive feedback.  Imagine the positive learning culture of a school that could embrace what Sender describes of her kindergarten class: “Kids feel more comfortable making mistakes” because they understand mistakes are part of the learning process!

Do you know a Community School District 200 educator who would like to apply for a Student Excellence Grant? The Foundation offers a Fall and a Spring grant cycle each year. Please feel free to share information regarding grant procedures with any District 200 educator. Classroom teachers, administrators, LLC Directors: any staff member with student contact is eligible to apply!

To read about other grants that have been provided to educators, click here.