Alexandria People At Work: Back to Kindergarten

Alexandria People At Work: Back to Kindergarten

Kate Martin joins the morning school program “Good Morning the MacArthur Show” in leading the pledge of allegiance for her kindergarten class on Wednesday morning.

Kate Martin joins the morning school program “Good Morning the MacArthur Show” in leading the pledge of allegiance for her kindergarten class on Wednesday morning. Photo by Shirley Ruhe/Gazette Packet


Natalie Harris and Aiden Clary slap hands together. Kate Martin says, “Now faster; does faster mean louder?” Children yell back “No.”

Ponytails and polka dots bounce through the door at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School a few minutes before 8 a.m. The noise gradually levels off, and the daily kindergarten routine begins. Tiny hands reach up to pull off a magnet picture and place it under the "I am here today" category on the tall blue cabinet. "Over here, put your daily folders. Boys and girls, you should be making your way to the carpet." Kate Martin, kindergarten teacher, turns on "The Good Morning MacArthur Show" as heads turn to the screen to watch the daily children's program. Martin puts her hand over her heart as the program turns to "the Pledge of Allegiance."

This is followed by a moment of silence. Twenty-two tiny bodies wiggle on the red, blue and orange carpet squares. "Everyone in their own space please." Martin pulls out a green fuzzy frog puppet. She says, "we're going to pass the puppet around the square and each of you should use the puppet to say hello to the person next to you around the circle. You can use a normal voice or make up a voice." The greetings start tentatively but pick up as a high squeaky voice says hello to a room full of giggles.


Kate Martin focuses on Wednesday’s spelling words during circle time at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. The children use sign language to spell got, not, yes, no.

This week features Will. "Every child has a super special week. Often it is chosen around the child's birthday." Monday features photos. "See Will's family pictures by the flag." Another day Will gets to picks a group activity, and Wednesday is "compliment Will day." Martin lets a child choose the color of paper and asks, "what is special about Will." Hands shoot up with answers from "he is a fast runner," "I like to play with Will," to "he will share," and "he is good at standing in line." Martin fills up the red piece of paper.

On to a quick brainstorm. Hands go up, fingers click, hands hit knees and feet stomp on the ground. Martin sits down beside a white board with the focus for Wednesday. "We will add the words yes, no, not and got to our list." A sign language alphabet sits at the top of the board. Children’s fingers form the letters for y-e-s. Martin says, "I have always done this." She explains it is good to incorporate movement for the wide range of abilities in the class. They turn to the new words for the day. "Riley, would you like to put this under the Y on the alphabet board on the wall?" The board also reminds the class this is Wednesday and they have PE. Other days they have library, art or music.


Tai Harrington and Katherine Whitman pass the green puppet frog as their turn comes in the circle to say hello. Kate Martin says they can use their own voice or invent a new one. A funny voice makes the class erupt in giggles.

Later the class will move to the reading block where the children read aloud. Martin says the children are taught to be independent so they are reading to themselves. "We have a lot of books around the room so we find a good fit for each of them." They work on writing in journals, at this point words and sentences. "We call it writing without tears, stress free and to make it fun." Martin says when she first started teaching things were more child-guided and directed. "There is a lot of choice now, and the children are taught to be independent. They are so motivated to learn." Martin says they follow the system's curriculum guide, but she says teachers come up with ideas like the science class water cycle. She points to plastic bags filled with water hanging on the front window. Recess, lunch and quiet time are still to come with loading the buses at 2:35 p.m.

Martin has been teaching 12 years at MacArthur. Before that she taught a couple of years at Jefferson-Houston and Samuel Tucker Elementary Schools. She says, "It's a funny story. I went to kindergarten in this same classroom." She explains her first year in kindergarten she fell asleep all the time and missed half the year. Her mother wanted her to take kindergarten again before continuing to first grade. And that started it all. She loved her teacher, her friends. She says she was always involved with kids. Her mom had all the play dates and she was a lifeguard and babysitter. By seventh grade she knew she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and in Alexandria. No place else. She still recalls her kindergarten teacher, Miss May. "There is something really special about the beginning, learning from the start and being remembered."