River Forest District 90 teachers Tammy Brenneman, Amy Driscoll, Barb Garvey, Kathryn Stasys, and Lori Suzuki are leading District 90’s kindergarten transformation form half-day to full-day, starting in the fall of 2023.
Q: How long have you been teaching kindergarten?
A: Together, these teachers have about 97 years of experience teaching students in kindergarten through second grade, with 47 total years as kindergarten teachers. When discussing their longevity as kindergarten teachers, each expressed admiration for the delight the youngest learners often bring to the classroom. “I love watching kindergarten students become independent learners; it’s simply magical,” said Tammy Brenneman.
Q: What have been some of your favorite aspects as a kindergarten/first-grade teacher?
A: All of the teachers excitedly shared their love of seeing students change as the school year progressed. Kindergarten is a dynamic year of learning and growth: academically, socially, and emotionally. Each agreed that students make such significant progress from the beginning of the school year to the end.
“Kindergartners go from not knowing letters to reading books, from not knowing numbers to adding and subtracting,” explained Barb Garvey. “The amount of growth these students make in a single school year is simply amazing.”
The five teachers share a common goal regarding their students.
“We strive to instill a love of learning in each student. It’s such a joy to see their delight as they learn new things,” shared Kathryn Stasys.
Q: District 90 is moving to full-day kindergarten in the fall. What will this transition look like for students?
A: While still in the planning stages, the teachers have already begun working on the transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten. The teachers expect that the beginning of the upcoming school year will focus on helping students acclimate to a full-day program, build their stamina for learning, and adhere to classroom and school routines. “There will be more time for everything that happens in school – more time for cooperative learning and developing friendships and lunch and recess. Students will be able to navigate a full school day,” said Amy Driscoll.
“There will be more time to devote to both academic and social-emotional learning development.” added Lori Suzuki.
Q: What aspects of full-day kindergarten are you most excited about as teachers?
A: The teachers are most excited about having additional time to meet the needs of the whole child –academic, social, and emotional through developmentally appropriate practices.
“We can’t wait to get started,” said Lori Suzuki. “I’m excited to see how the children will progress in a full-day program.”
Another benefit of the full-day kindergarten program is the ability to slow the pace of the day for students. “Everything is on speed dial in the half-day program,” said Amy Driscoll, “with the longer kindergarten day, we’re better able to support all areas of a child’s development.”
Developmentally appropriate practices also include spending time learning through play. “I’m excited about the added time for play and learning through play. It’s true that play is the work of children,” added Barb Garvey.
Q: Can you share something you love about working in the Oak Park/River Forest area?
A: It’s the relationships with students, families, residents, and colleagues that is undeniably special about working in this community. The teachers agreed that they love working and connecting with families who are so invested in their children’s education and support the efforts of our schools. “Our PTOs and families are so supportive,” explained Lori Suzuki. While Amy Driscoll added, “It’s also reassuring that our fellow teachers remain in District 90. The longevity of our colleagues enables us to bring consistency and shared energy to our schools and practice.”