What a difference a year makes for first year teacher

This is the final installment in a series of stories about Katie Pannell during her first year as a kindergarten teacher at Joyner Elementary School. Previous stories about Pannell appeared on Aug. 18, Oct. 27 and Jan. 26.

TUPELO – Katie Pannell began the 2008-2009 school year decorating her classroom with a cowboy theme. Now, she’s packing up supplies, cleaning off bulletin boards and preparing for a move to another school.
“I will still have my western theme, Mrs. Pannell’s Partners,” she said in her kindergarten room at Joyner Elementary, where she spent her first year as a full-time teacher.
In the fall, the Tupelo Public School District will implement its reorganization plan, shuffling students and teachers to reach a goal of providing smaller class sizes in grades K-3.
As a result, she is following her principal, Brenda Johnson, to Rankin Elementary. “I will teach fourth grade next year, and I am very excited about the move,” said Pannell, a graduate of Mississippi State University who spent time with fourth-graders when she was a student teacher.
“I greatly enjoy that age group and the curriculum,” she said. “I look forward to seeing many of my current students once again when they arrive at Rankin in a few years, and will hopefully will have the privilege of teaching them again.”
Pannell is equally enthusiastic about the first year with her kindergartners.
“My first year of teaching kindergarten was wonderful,” she said, noting the close-knit community they’ve built during their state-required 180 instructional days.
“There are so many skills, academically and socially, that students have learned throughout this year,” Pannell said. “Students have learned academic skills such as beginning reading strategies, handwriting and numerous math skills ranging from addition to graphing. Socially, students have learned to respect others’ ideas, work together in groups and to think before speaking and acting.”
After the first nine weeks of the school year, Pannell said she wanted her students “to be more than ready for first grade.”
Has she succeeded?
“Each student entered kindergarten on a different level, and each is leaving on a different level,” she said. “However, all students have progressed immensely this year, and the majority is ready for first grade. It is my hope that as I have stressed throughout this year, parents continue to work with students throughout the summer to ready them even further for next year.”
Pannell’s pupils also weren’t the only ones learning this year.
“In addition to teaching daily lessons, there are many lessons I’ve learned from students, and so many memories I will have for the rest of my educational career,” she said. “My most favorite experience this year was seeing students participate in the sharing bag project we had at Christmas.”
She explained that students brought small items on an assigned day and dropped one into everyone’s sharing bag. “On the last day before Christmas holidays, students opened their bags, and were so thrilled with what was inside,” Pannell said. “It was wonderful to see students happy over a small item, rather than expecting something large, and to also see students realize they’d participated in making someone else smile.”
Pannell, too, is smiling.
“This year was more than I expected, in a positive way,” she said. “This year has been wonderful, and I know next year will be as well.”
Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com.

Ginny Miller/NEMS Daily Journal