“Hello! Bonjour! Buenos dias!”
As these greetings float through the air each morning, Carrie Blanchard’s students make their way to the front of the classroom to join hands and sing along to “Hello to All The Children of the World,” a video that Blanchard plays from YouTube.
Blanchard has been a kindergarten teacher at Alderman Road Elementary School in Fayetteville for the last four years.
“As a teacher assistant, I kind of fell in love with working with kids and felt like I needed to do more, so I went back to school while I was an assistant,” said Blanchard.
After checking on their budding window plants and discussing the schedule for the day, Blanchard’s students join hands in a circle to pass a silent nod of eye contact one-by-one that culminates in a group hug.
Blanchard incorporates team building exercises like this into her classroom on a daily basis.
“On Fridays, we pull names out of the jar and they get to write about each other, and then we sit and share them. They each have an envelope with a postcard and a little heart on it and they get to take it home with them at the end of the year,” said Blanchard.
“Before anyone even says anything, they’ll say the name of the student that they’re calling and their face just lights up — even before they’ve even gotten the compliment.”
For Blanchard, being a teacher is about much more than being in the classroom; the diverse needs of her students weigh on her daily.
“They come from so many different backgrounds and it’s just hard. You don’t know what they’re experiencing but you talk to them, and you get a feel for what they’re experiencing at home,” said Blanchard. “You try your best to give them an environment where they feel safe and comfortable and loved.”
Blanchard takes seriously the academic demands placed on her to make sure her students are proficient and ready for the next grade level. But beyond her students’ academic needs, Blanchard also considers their social and emotional needs.
She thinks about making sure each student feels loved not only be her, but by their peers. She thinks about whether her students feel successful and confident. She thinks about their basic needs, going so far as to by her students socks.
“They are like my children — I’ve adopted 19 children this year,” said Blanchard. “It keeps me up at night making sure I’m meeting their needs.”
Blanchard’s compassion for her students is evident in her interactions with them. She applauds each of their successes and pushes them to be critical thinkers. She captivates her students’ attention and captures every opportunity for a teachable moment.
As she marked off the next day on the school calendar, Blanchard smiled and said: “Today marks 148 days smart — your brains have grown so much.”
Note: Carrie Blanchard was nominated by fellow educator Andi Webb.