Since 2008, Kate Meadowcroft has been an integral part of Elmwood’s Early Years Program. Starting out as the school’s 326 Coordinator, she was soon hired to take over the junior kindergarten class -- a role she held for eight years before transitioning into her current position as Elmwood’s senior kindergarten teacher. A passionate educator, she brings with her a love of music and wellness and a commitment to healthy active living. Read on to learn more about Ms. Meadowcroft’s background, teaching philosophies, and why she feels so lucky to work within the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program framework.
Where are you from and where did you go to school?
I was born in Nassau, Bahamas, but we moved to Canada when I was 4 years old, when my family moved to Mississauga. I went to an all-girls high school myself, so all-girls education is very close to my heart. I had a really positive experience at my school, and that’s part of what drew me to Elmwood. I moved to Montreal for post-secondary, studying music at Concordia and McGill, and then I went to the University of Ottawa for teacher’s college and my master’s of education.
What are some of your personal teaching philosophies?
For me, it’s all about having a positive first experience in school -- feeling positive about learning, feeling a connection to the teachers, to each other, and to the classroom community. I’m also a very strong proponent of play-based learning. It’s vitally important that young children be given enough time and opportunity to engage in enriching play experiences. Literacy and math concepts are so much more meaningful to young children when they can explore them through play.
The Primary Years Program used to be much more structured, and it often followed quite a teacher-directed format. Now, with the changes to Early Years, play has become the primary vehicle of inquiry, which is a really exciting change.
What are some other changes you are excited about?
Recently, the introduction of design thinking into our Program of Inquiry has really shaken things up. It’s a slightly different way of doing things that encourages student agency and ownership from a young age, so that has been exciting. It’s all about encouraging them to form really good questions and think of innovative ways to answer them.
In your opinion, what are the main benefits of an IB Early Years education?
I think the IB has struck a really nice balance between student-directed inquiry as well as teacher-guided inquiry. Inquiry can be tricky; young children have lots of questions but they don’t always know how to go about answering them. Now that we have more flexibility in the Early Years, there is space in our Program of Inquiry for those student-directed initiatives, but we still have teacher-guided inquiry so they can see what it means to ask deep questions, to research, to dive deep into a central idea. I think that’s an ideal balance.
I also think that the IB Learner Profile attributes [the 10 values shared by all IB World Schools that are designed to help students become responsible members of their local, national and global communities] are the cornerstone to all good learning. Teaching them those terms and those skills from a very young age -- even if they’re just starting to understand some of the language around what it means to be balanced, or open-minded, or to be a communicator, to be reflective -- they get that right from the very beginning. As they go through the Primary Years Program, they can build on their understanding. So I like that cohesiveness. They build the foundation of it here and they grow on it as they go up through the Junior School.
What are some co-curricular activities you are involved with outside of the classroom?
I work with Ms. Pike every year to conduct the Holly Tea Choir, which I really enjoy. I’m actually qualified to teach intermediate and junior vocal music, so I really love being involved with that. Sometimes I step in if Ms. Pike can’t find an accompanist. She can play the piano, but she can’t play and direct at the same time, so she’ll ask me to conduct while she plays. Every time she asks me I always say yes straight away with a smile on my face.
I’m also passionate about mindfulness and meditation because it has had a big impact on me. I always make sure that I incorporate mindfulness, meditation and yoga into my teaching, and whenever I can I try to offer it in the co-curricular learning in the Junior School as well. It’s amazing what a difference it can make.