Featured Teachers: Kim Beck

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Lincoln Trail Elementary kindergarten teacher Kim Beck talks with kindergartner Jay Carter, right, while the students line up in the hallway at the school in Lamar on Monday.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

LAMAR — It’s a bit of a surreal school year for Lincoln Trail Elementary kindergarten teacher Kim Beck.

The students she had in her first kindergarten class in 2007 will graduate from Heritage Hills High School this year, marking a milestone in her teaching career, and a proud moment for a teacher who makes a habit of keeping up with her students long after they leave her classroom.

Beck has a reputation around Lincoln Trail for building relationships with her students and their parents so strong, that it’s not uncommon for her students to wind up nicknaming her Mom by the end of the school year. The parents, too, tend to form a strong relationship with Beck, as she gives them her personal phone number and encourages them to contact her.

“She’s one of the first interactions families have with Lincoln Trail, and she really sets the tone for the school,” Principal Ben Lawalin said. “Parents absolutely love her.”

Her students do, too. Lawalin said he often hears from sixth-graders preparing to leave Lincoln Trail for Heritage Hills Middle School that they’ll never forget having Mrs. Beck in kindergarten.

Lincoln Trail Elementary teacher Kim Beck helps kindergartner Kayden Lottes with a spelling activity at the school in Lamar on Monday.

Beck’s fellow kindergarten teacher, Michelle Coleman, sees firsthand how much Beck’s students love her, as Coleman’s daughter is in Beck’s class this year.

“She just loves Mrs. Beck,” Coleman said of her daughter. “She even misses her on the weekends.”

At the kindergarten level, Beck said, students enter her classroom with a large range of ability. Some already know their alphabet and how to write their names. Others still need to learn the ABCs. Fortunately, Beck has been teaching kindergarten long enough that she knows what her students need to know, and has an arsenal of strategies to make sure her students leave the classroom at the end of the year able to write two sentences in their daily journals, and with addition and subtraction facts tables through five in their heads.

“It’s a lot of guided time to differentiate instruction,” Beck said of her teaching style. “You want to make sure you’re challenging the kids.”

With 27 students in a class and kindergarten academic standards that have gotten far more grueling over the years, that can be a challenge. But Beck finds a way to meet her students where they are and help them rise to the high standards. During timed math quizzes, for example, she sits her students in groups by their ability level. That way, students who excel at math can take quizzes with first- or second-grade problems while their classmates take quizzes at their levels. By the end of year, Beck said, most of her students are taking first-grade quizzes.

Kindergarten academics may not look the way they did when Beck started teaching 12 years ago, but her students have consistently risen to the higher rigor, and watching them advance is a joy for Beck.

Lincoln Trail Elementary teacher Kim Beck helps kindergartners Maliya Arnold, left, Parker Ward, Toby Scherzer, and Avery Echelbarger with a numbers learning activity at the school in Lamar on Monday.

“They are little sponges,” she said. “They just take it and say, ‘Oh, we can do this.’”

Beck’s favorite part of teaching is seeing a student go from thinking something is too difficult to being able to complete a task like it’s second nature. The other joy is seeing how much her students grow in a year. On the first day of school, she said, many of her students draw pictures for their daily journal entries. But by the end of the year, they’re writing two complete sentences in their entries, as the state standards require.

Although Beck could teach higher grade levels, she’s hoping to retire from teaching kindergarten at Lincoln Trail. She loves the age group, she said, and her students come to school excited and eager to learn, something she knows wanes with age from watching her own children.

Beck and her husband, Brad, live in St. Anthony with their four children — freshman Brayden, seventh-grader Blake, fifth-grader Brody and second-grader Bryson.

Although her sons are Rangers, Beck said she’s a Patriot through and through. She grew up in Dale and graduated from Heritage Hills High School in 1994 before earning her teaching degree from the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. Although she supports her sons’ sports teams and cheers for the Rangers, she’s a Patriot at heart.

“This is home to me,” she said of North Spencer.

Lawalin and Coleman are glad Beck has chosen North Spencer. To both of them, she’s an example of the kind of teacher that makes the corporation strong.

“When I think about a teacher who has a true love for teaching, Kim Beck is definitely the person that pops into my head,” Coleman said. “She’s a wonderful co-worker and friend who gives many extra hours out of the normal school day to ensure the needs of her students are being met.”




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