Posts Tagged 'Elizabeth Gulden'

Elizabeth Gulden, 2019 Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year

On April 3, 2019, the College of Education hosted a panel of outstanding educators who have been recognized as Wisconsin Teachers of the Year. Their personal stories, reflections, and words of advice were inspiring and greatly appreciated by our audience. We wanted to introduce them to you, our readers, as well!

a Gulden headshot_16Hi! I’m Elizabeth (Liz) Gulden, a kindergarten teacher at Gordon L. Willson Elementary School (G.L.W.) in Baraboo, and I was named Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year in 2019. Over the past 14 years as a teacher of some of our youngest learners, I motivate and inspire my students’ love of learning by practicing and learning along with them. I am a tireless advocate for young elementary students, ensuring my teaching practices are engaging and developmentally appropriate. And my core, deep-rooted educational philosophy is that learning, above all else, should be FUN!

I actually grew up in Baraboo, and it has been so exciting to come back to my hometown to teach. The timing could not have been more perfect, as I returned just as Baraboo was implementing a full day Kindergarten program and had designed a new Kindergarten Center. My husband and I live in Baraboo, and we take advantage of all that this amazing small town has to offer including: a phenomenal downtown area, the extremely picturesque Devil’s Lake State Park, and of course an annual visit to Circus World Museum. My parents and older brother also live in town still, so my support system here remains strong.

Serving in the field of education is instilled deep within my genes, as my mom is a retired teacher of 47 years. Yes, she taught for 47 years, and most of these years were spent in a third-grade classroom in the Wisconsin Dells School District. Needless to say, I have an amazing role model in her, who I am now fortunate to have serving as a guest substitute teacher for my class of students. Yes, my mom is my kindergarten class’s favorite guest teacher! My dad also loves to pop into our classroom to help us out during Math Workshop whenever he can, and he loves to go on our field trips with us too. I am just so lucky, and I’m sure I’ll never be able to verbalize the impact they have had on me and on all of my students over the years.

Never underestimate the value and power of children at play! Our school playground is nestled within a busy neighborhood community, and after roughly 45 years of use for most of the pieces, it was absolutely time for a safety and equipment upgrade! I set to work championing a Playground Fundraising Committee that took on a multiphase action plan to improve our play space for kids. The committee was comprised of teachers, administration, and parents/community members. Countless hours were spent hosting annual Fun Runs, local restaurant community impact and share nights, book fairs, profitable yearbook sales, and MORE!

In four short years we raised over $75,000, completing our three-phase plan. We no longer have voided areas of our school/community playground, all of the equipment meets safety codes, and there are enough pieces to engage our entire student body (350 students) and the neighborhood children! This is some of the work I am most proud of in my career thus far.

We are still outgrowing our space within our elementary walls, so next on my “passion project” list is the creation of an Outdoor Learning Space for our kids. Our hope is to obtain a grant to construct a mini amphitheater for our G.L.W. students where outdoor learning lessons could take place. The possibilities for the space are endless…reader’s theater performances, teacher read-alouds, local library book talks, Scout meetings, the beginning of a Planting/Growing Club, and more! The benefits of spending time outdoors are substantial: improved mental health, increased cognitive and academic performance, and decreased risk for other health factors.

In 2014 I embarked on my journey to earn my National Board teaching certification. I convinced a colleague to join me in this endeavor, and I was forever grateful to have this support along the way. Saying the process is difficult would be an understatement, but it was also extremely rewarding. Becoming a NBCT taught me so much about myself as an educator through deep reflection, and it made me a much better teacher than I ever thought I could be. My improved teaching practices and strategies had a significant academic impact on my students. The process involved taking a much deeper look at student achievement data, videotaping and analyzing one’s own teaching practices, and a content/teaching strategy-based test.

I have so many favorite educational experiences, some of which were my own experiences and some of which were my students’ experiences. I had absolutely phenomenal student teaching placements in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I am forever indebted to: Deb Bemis (Emerson Elementary), Kathy Shikonya (La Crosse Cathedral), and the entire staff at the UW-La Crosse Campus Childcare Center. These experiences were so rewarding, and I still implement some of the methods I learned even “way back then” into my daily teaching routines.

The kindergarten teachers in our district have completely transformed sight word learning for our students in recent years, improving student reading accuracy scores, and this has been deeply satisfying work. My kindergarten teaching team has increased the number of sight words we teach our students, and we introduce the words using multiple learning modalities. We post the words visually on classroom word walls and also spell each sight word with our bodies, appealing to kinesthetic learners. Each child has a personalized, sight word goal list where he/she is able to track growth in sight word recognition. Whereas students used to master twenty-five sight words within the year, some children are now reading seventy-five to one hundred sight words in the year!

I LOVE creating new dramatic play centers for our classroom. These are so engaging for the kids and incorporate so much academic learning too. Some of the kids’ favorites include our classroom restaurant, grocery store, and vet clinic! It is so fun to watch the kids writing down food orders, adding up grocery bills, and building language skills as they diagnose pet medical “orders” in such authentic learning scenarios. These are some of my most beloved times in our Kindergarten classroom where the kids are involved in imaginative and meaningful play, where the learning is happening almost as if by magic.

 


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