Golden Apple winner uses key tools of the trade to reach students
By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – Bay Harbor Elementary Educator Kristen Possley has several tools of the trade on which she relies to meet the students where they are not only in skills but in character and demeanor as well.
As a K-2 cross-categorical special education teacher, she works with a variety of skill levels and abilities but uses several key attributes to reach her students.
While flexibility and adaptability are part of Possley’s educational tools for effective teaching, she also sees empathy and positivity as crucial aspects in the classroom.
“One of the most valuable traits that an educator can have is empathy. This is one of my guiding stars when it comes to nurturing our school culture,” Possley stated.
“Empathy allows me to see through different perspectives and allows me to be more forgiving, more present and able to connect deeply with others.
“Recently a student’s father passed away. Empathy brought me to be in this situation with her and her family, and it is allowing me to walk with her and support her in her new reality.
“I am able to connect with many students by being positive and using humor. They see me in action modeling the behavior I expect from them in return. Last year I participated in the Dash for Cash event. What better way to share my sense of humor than by wearing a silly onesie and doing cartwheels?”
She said that while she participated for fun, the funding allowed her to create a “much-needed” sensory room, complete with a calming bubble wall, tactile boards and breathing-buddy stuffed animals.
“I have specifically connected with one student who had struggled for over two years to speak in public, diagnosed with a condition called selective mutism. Allowing him to be who he is and not forcing anything (empathy), and using our funny and off-beat sense of shared humor, I was able to allow him to determine when it was the right time to whisper to me.
“It started with a very faint ‘hi’ and ever since then he has been whispering to communicate to everyone. I believe that our connection was one of the defining pieces of why he was able to overcome this condition. That was one of the happiest and proudest days as an educator.
“Another young student would cry and fight morning drop-off to the point she would get sick nearly every day. She needed one person she could trust, feel safe with and make her feel happy when stepping in the door.
“The first year I taught her the mornings began like this but very quickly improved. Now she comes into school independently and confidently as I have earned her trust.
“Most of education in my role is not about academics. It’s the bond built through honesty, respect, authentic conversations and genuine interactions.”