Kristine Swenson’s going back to kindergarten.
“I fell in love with early childhood during my college years at Winona State University (WSU). While student teaching, I was placed in a third grade classroom and instantly fell in love with them as well. The hardest question I’ve been asked since graduation is, ‘What grade do you want to teach?’ I’ve never known how to answer that…only that I know I’m meant to be a teacher. The fact that I was hired in a kindergarten classroom fits perfectly with my previous experience. I feel confident in my abilities at this age level, and can’t wait to see what these kids can teach me,” said new teacher Swenson, who’s busy setting up her kindergarten classroom at Chatfield Elementary School.
She’s an alum of the Mabel-Canton class of 2009, as well as of the WSU class of 2013, with degrees in elementary and early childhood education and a minor in music. This is her first year as a licensed teacher. During college, she was an assistant teacher at the Winona State University Children’s Center and taught all age groups, from infant to toddler and preschool.
“In elementary school, I was considered bossy. In middle school, I was a teacher’s pet. In high school, I was the friend you went to for help when you didn’t understand the homework and just couldn’t listen to the teacher explain it one more time,” she said. “I, and everyone around me, have always known I was going to be a teacher. The reasons I thought I wanted to be a teacher have changed dramatically over the years, but one thing stays the same. I am my best self when I am helping others, and what better way to help others than to teach.”
Having said that, Swenson noted she is excited to be part of the Chatfield Elementary School for many reasons. Having at least three sections of each grade, there is a team of teachers who support each other and their respective classrooms. They also have ample resources between them and, “I believe the saying goes, ‘three heads are better than one.’ Yet, despite the size of the school, the community surrounding us has a small town feel. The smiling faces and welcoming attitudes around every corner make it impossible not to fall in love with this place.”
She holds a broad view of the definition of the words “education” and “learning.”
“The most important things that children should learn during school isn’t a single subject, or even all of them combined,” said Swenson. “School is a place to discover new things about our world, our community, and ourselves. It’s a chance to try new things and then try them again. It’s a place to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s a safe environment to grow and express yourself by whatever means possible. We do all of these things through math, science, and literacy lessons, but it doesn’t stop there. We develop our senses and our emotions through play, dance, song, and action. The most important thing a child should learn while in school is that one never stops learning.”
She feels up to the challenge of taking on a classroom of 5- and 6-year-olds, even though she herself is still learning. “Being a first-year teacher is intimidating. There is a lot to learn, and even more to lose if you don’t succeed,” she explained. “A classroom full of students depends on you every day to help shape their minds and expand their knowledge base.
“I’m still figuring out what ‘type’ of teacher I’m going to be, but one thing I hope all my students know is: from the first time they step foot in my classroom and for the rest of their lives, I will always be there to offer a smile, helping hand, and open heart.”
Swenson values her family very much. She is the youngest child in a family of five and has three “adorable nephews and one beautiful niece.” Her hobbies include spending time with her nephews and niece, as well as friends and family as much as possible. She enjoys playing piano and guitar and singing, adding “Whether or not others like to listen is another story. I am a lover of all things music. I hope to use my guitar as much as possible to supplement lessons and have a little fun. My spare time is filled by staying active with the people I love.”