Ashley Gardella is a transitional kindergarten teacher and Brenda Graham is a paraeducator at Irene Reither Elementary School.
Ashley: “Brenda and I are a team; we’re doing this together. She might have some skills or ability to problem solve or work through big feelings in a moment when a student is more responsive to her than me or vice versa, it flows organically. We often start the day with an idea in mind of how things are going to go and then it goes completely left in a magical, amazing way based on the kids’ conversations and their interactions.”
Brenda: “The kids are always engaging, and they’re interested in what we’re learning. Every morning the kids want to share a story with you, they want to tell you about their weekend or something funny. This age group is really a lot of fun. They are so happy to be here; they love school and I think that’s what makes it so easy to come to work every day. At IRE, we have a great administration, staff and teachers. This is a very accepting school.”
Ashley: “I think at the core of IRE, we have this idea that we’re a family within the Meridian community family. And it’s not just something we say, it’s something that we mean, and show. We are always trying to improve on connecting to our community and hearing voices from outside our school. We are constantly communicating with parents, it’s a partnership. I never want parents to feel like this isn’t their classroom. We are a class family and parents are part of that family. I try at least once a week to take pictures of what their child’s doing and share that with families through Seesaw. That way parents feel more connected to the learning. They get to see the smile on their child’s face, what they’re doing and learning and how we’re nurturing that relationship with them.”
Brenda: “Our school has four Trojan Traits, we are kind, safe, responsible, and respectful. That’s what we teach the kids. Kids learn through play and it’s a very safe environment. The kids often form friendships on the first day. Kids develop friendships very quickly, much more quickly than adults.”
Ashley: “The teachers love being here and love what they do, and it shows when you walk through our halls. The faces are warm and welcoming, even when we had the masks on, you could still see teachers’ eyes smiling and everybody excited to be here.”