Kindergarten teacher Dee Baumgartner
Dee Baumgartner

Once visitors pull their eyes away from the engaging 5-year-old faces and the colorful learning materials that crowd Dee Baumgartner’s classroom, the next thing they’re likely to notice is the teacher’s energy. Mrs. B’s cheerful stamina is amazing, especially considering she’s been teaching kindergarten since 1968.

Everything she says to the students has a rhythm and purpose. Her methods are based on research findings — often ones that reinforce what decades of experience have taught her.

Dee, a WSU alumna (M.Ed. ’73), recently invited Dean A.G. Rud to visit her class at Pullman’s Franklin Elementary School.  (He accepted, and it was a delightful hour. Pictures here.)

Winner of the College of Education’s 2009 Miller-Manchester Teacher Mentor Award, Dee has helped many WSU teacher education students gain experience her classroom. On the day of the dean’s visit, elementary education student Laura Mathis was on hand.

Asked later about the influence of research on her teaching, she mentioned her participation in research grants that involved the teaching approach championed by Madeline Hunter and Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classification of learning objectives. “Both of these helped to lay a strong foundation of what makes teaching good, and the types of questions and activities that challenge students at all different levels of learning.”  Another major influence was her preparation, through WSU, for National Board teacher certification.

kindergarten student
Hand-on lessons engage the senses of Jillian McLean and her classmates

“My ability to write with children was influenced by the opportunity to be part of the Northwest Writing Project through WSU and the fine tutoring of Dr. Sherry Vaughn,” she said. “Right now, I’m delving into brain research by looking at Robert Marzano and John Medina.”

“I have truly reveled in (Medina’s) 12 brain rules. When I learn that repetition is really important to new learning, I make sure that I do two-minutes spots of review. When I learn about the need for using many of our senses when presenting new material to my students, I say ‘right on’ and get out Jello-flavored playdough to help students learn those tricky letter names.”

A lot has changed since she started teaching, Dee said. “That is probably what has kept me fresh and loving what I do. The greatest change has been the statement to my students of the ‘target learning’ for a particular lesson.  I always knew it, but didn’t communicate it clearly until recent years.”

In other words, she starts a lesson by telling the children what they will learn and asking if they understand that. To reinforce the lesson, she ends it by asking them to describe and then demonstrate what they’ve learned. And they do it. “Kindergarten students are amazing.”