Cox creates learning opportunities throughout her classroom
CHINO VALLEY - Anyone walking into Brandy Cox's kindergarten class at Del Rio Elementary School will see groups of students working on a variety of things.
At first glance, it may seem strange and chaotic, but a second, closer look reveals what is really happening - learning.
Cox, the Yavapai County Education Foundation 2009 Teacher of the Year, has everything under control.
One group of students is working on three-part stories about a day in the life of a butterfly. Another group is using green paint, their thumbs and fingers to show the life cycle of a butterfly.
The students are studying butterflies, and on Monday morning, Cox transferred the chrysalis to the butterfly house.
Other students were listening to a story on headphones, following along, "finger tracking," in books. A fourth group was writing spelling words in rainbow colors.
Cox said that each group would spend 15 minutes at each station. This allows her to give personal attention to her students.
Her students know she received an award, but are not sure of its significance. It doesn't matter. They love her anyway.
Six-year-old Tanner Deskins said Cox is a "good teacher. She does stuff with us."
Tawnee Pollak, 5, likes her teacher because "she is nice."
Both Tawnee and Tanner learned to read this year, thanks to Cox. Tawnee likes to read about mud pies and Tanner is interested in dinosaurs.
Cox said the biggest challenges in kindergarten are "learning to work together without mom and dad, learning new rules and sitting still. I call it their 'job.' Their job is to empty their backpacks and check in every morning. I tell them that is their job, just like mom and dad have a job."
Cox noted state standards are more strict than in the past and, "If the state eliminated all-day kindergarten I don't know when we would be able to teach everything" the standards require.
The 22 students in Cox's class are reading and finger tracking words in their books, writing three-part stories and most are members of the 100 Club, indicating they can count to 100.
Mo Guffy is a para-professional in Cox's class. She said Cox is a "wonderful teacher to work with. She is very energetic and everyone loves her."
This is Cox's third year at Del Rio. Before coming to the Chino Valley Unified School District, she taught life skills, third grade, pre-school and kindergarten for the Camp Verde School District.
Cox began her teaching career in 1993 when the Flagstaff School District hired her to teach first grade.
As part of the Teacher of the Year nomination packet, the Del Rio Kindergarten Team said, "(Cox) is a master teacher with exemplary performance in the classroom. She has very high standards for herself and her students. Her degree in special education helps her meet the needs of at-risk students, as well as being able to individualize instruction within her classroom."
The kindergarten team said, "Cox's understanding of curriculum, effective teaching methods and her willingness to share her knowledge has earned her our respect and admiration."
Baskets filled with activities line a shelf in Cox's classroom. Each basket contains what the students consider games, but Cox knows they are much more than that. As the students practice writing numbers on a wipe-off board, or recognize numbers in a game of war, they really are learning.