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  • Writer's pictureMadaline Dunn

Gretchen Larson: Learning alongside your students and staying flexible

For Gretchen Larson, an educator at Northeast Elementary, learning never stops. She understands teaching is all about evolving alongside her students and always has her finger on the pulse of the latest innovations.

As a child, Gretchen Larson dreamed of the stars. With a passion for space, she wanted to work at NASA for most of her younger years. However, when it came to college crunch time, she decided to pursue accounting. She soon realized her heart wasn't in it, and thought back to her days working for her local YMCA’s childcare program. She remembered just how much she loved working with children and switched to elementary education. She's not left behind her science dreams, though and now works as a math and science teacher at Northeast Elementary.

Gretchen always seeks innovative ways to make learning fun and explained that it's important that students don't just see the algorithm when teaching math. Instead, Gretchen injects color and creativity into her classroom by getting the students to make models and use manipulatives. She said this kind of hands-on experience is the most effective way for students to learn.

Gretchen finds inspiration for this innovation in many places, including professional development courses, pursuing further education and attending space camp. With a master's in curriculum and instruction and another master's in middle school mathematics, Gretchen said she's a lifelong learner and always looking for new ways to evolve as a teacher. Through attending space camp, for example, she was able to bring space into her classroom and build a network of like-minded educators to exchange ideas with.

Aware that some educators can get stuck in a cycle of teaching a certain way, Gretchen does everything in her power to make sure she stays as adaptable as possible. "Students evolve very quickly, so it's important that I change and adapt the way I teach and find better ways to engage students with the content.” Gretchen said this approach enables students to not just know the content but really understand it.

A truly caring and compassionate educator, Gretchen said her favorite part of being a teacher is the relationships she builds with her students. "I know it's only been six years, but I remember all of my students,” she said, adding: “I've thought about what I might do if I didn't teach, but I would miss my classroom of students and having the ability to make a positive impact on them.”

Photos courtesy of Gretchen Larson

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