Moving bittersweet for Gill Elementary kindergarten teacher in SD70

Theresa Coleman packs more than classroom supplies as she gets ready to leave Gill for AW Neill in 2015-16.

Gill Elementary School kindergarten teacher Theresa Coleman packs up her classroom for the move to AW Neill in September.

It’s the end of an era at Gill Elementary School. The school has been shut down and will be packed up over the summer.

The contents, and the teachers, are destined for A.W. Neill, which will be converted from a middle school to a K-7 elementary school.

But it just won’t be the same for kindergarten teacher Theresa Coleman.

“This room is perfect for kindergarten,” said Coleman.

“Kindergarteners need space.”

That’s exactly what they had in Coleman’s expansive classroom at Gill. Located in a separate building from the rest of the school, it’s double the size of your average classroom.

“We have our carpet area, we have our table area, we have our own kitchen area and girls bathroom and boys bathroom,” said Coleman. “I won’t have that at Neill.”

A classroom as big as what Coleman has had at Gill has been especially great given the recent push to self-regulation, where kids are given the space and time to address their emotions.

“They’re all about self-regulation and reducing your anxiety these days,” Coleman said.

The larger classroom allowed the students to do just that. Those who wanted a quieter activity were separated out from those doing something louder.

“We could space our centres so we have our quieter things [like] painting and reading and being on the computer together and the louder things like the blocks in a different area,” she said.

“I am just not going to have that space over at Neill. It’s a real shame.”

But although Coleman is sad to be losing the larger than average classroom, she’s happy to still have a classroom to come back to in the fall.

“I just really, really love it out here,” Coleman said. “But I’m just happy to have a job!”

It will be a big change indeed for Coleman who’s spent the past few years in this classroom. But it won’t be the first time she’s teaching her students in a standard sized room­—in her nine years at Gill, she taught Grade 3, Grade 5 and a Kindergarten/ Grade 1 split.

“I’ve done a K-1 split in the big building in a regular size classroom and it can work,” Coleman said.

“The kids step over each other and they learn to say ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry about that.’ So it can work and it will work.”

This fall will bring some added excitement to take Coleman’s mind off of the smaller room.

“My little girl is going to be in my classroom this year so we’re both starting fresh in a new school this year,” she said. “So that will be neat.” And no matter the size of the classroom, Coleman is happy to keep teaching kindergarteners.

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“I love them, I love this age,” she said, adding that she doesn’t have much competition.

“This age level is not very desirable among teachers because there’s so much development needing to happen, they’re so young.”

Coleman was inspired to work with the age group after attending a workshop on the mainland a couple of years ago.

“I went to a really great kindergarten workshop in Burnaby a couple of years ago and just came back with so many fantastic ideas and was so motivated and I use them all the time.”

Luckily, the ideas will still all work in the smaller classroom at Neill.

“It’s all good, it’s just going to be a big change.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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