September 29, 2008

‘All Children Can Learn’ — Walls Teacher Focuses on Each Student’s Needs

By Raina Hanna

Jodi Yelverton considers her students her greatest accomplishments. They are proof of her teaching philosophy.

"All children can learn. No matter if they have special needs or what level they are at, they all can learn," Yelverton said.

As a kindergarten teacher at Walls Elementary, Yelverton's classroom is filled with students with a variety of needs, abilities and levels of learning. Yelverton's ability to recognize each of her students as individuals and the level of caring she brings has earned her praise from family members and co-workers.

"I'm very happy my grandson is in her class," said Pam Selby, who is also a retired teacher. "I know she cares about every child no matter what their background or anything else. She has a tender spot in her heart and no matter what she's given she can make it work."

Selby and others often describe Yelverton, 30, as joyful, enthusiastic and committed - qualities in demand for students just beginning their education.

While having also taught second grade, Yelverton said that kindergarten is her favorite. Quick to correct the myth that kindergarten curriculum is any slower paced than higher grades, she explains to parents that the number of skills the children are required to master as well as the adjustment to the social structure of school are quite challenging.

Another thing Yelverton feels strongly about is the need for children to master one skill before moving on to the next. However, often times, teachers are forced to move from skill to skill at a rapid pace to ensure all the material is taught before state testing.

"Teachers should be allowed to teach their students according to their capability," she said "Everyone is different and everyone learns at a different pace, so why do we expect students who learn at different paces and who are on different levels all to learn the same curriculum in 180 days?"

Yelverton said she spends countless hours preparing entertaining and engaging hands-on activities for her students because younger children learn more by doing.

A graduate of DeSoto County schools, Yelverton is thankful to be able to give back to the school system that raised her. She made her career choice early on.

"My aunt was a teacher in a private school in Memphis and I can remember helping her grade papers and getting activities ready for her classroom when I was in elementary school," she said.

In high school, an essay she wrote on why she wanted to be a teacher won her two cash awards toward her college education.

After earning her Bachelor of Arts in education from the University of Mississippi, Yelverton taught in Tate County for two years before taking her position at Walls Elementary five years ago.

While teaching at Walls, she returned to the University of Mississippi, earning a Master of Education degree in 2005.

In May 2006, she and her co-workers were awarded a $10,000 grant from Homer Skelton for their kindergarten and first-grade phonics program.

Yelverton said nothing makes her happier than the smiles and hugs she receives from former students as she walks the school's halls.

"No matter what grade they are in or how old they are, I will always be a part of their lives," she said.

Originally published by Raina Hanna Special to DeSoto Appeal .

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