On a November afternoon, the kindergarten classroom at St. Patrick School buzzed with excitement. Students had just watched a video about hibernation and couldn’t wait to share what they had learned.
Frogs wake up in the spring, one student shouted.
Bees will begin pollinating flowers, another added.
Other students turned to their classmates to describe how they saw signs of spring in their own lives. Hands shot up, and questions were answered.
This type of unbridled enthusiasm is exactly why Courtney Krebill loves teaching kindergarten. “I’ve taught from preschool to middle school, and I have loved it all,” she says, “but kindergarten is my place.”
The veteran teacher not only found her niche in teaching kindergarteners but has been able to do so at a parish she loves. “This is where I was baptized, made my First Communion and got married,” Courtney says. She feels blessed to work at St. Patrick School, and the parents and staff at the school feel blessed to have her there too.
Worship and Work at St. Patrick - Parnell
After graduating from Central Michigan University in 2006, Courtney eventually found herself teaching for Lakeview Community Schools. Despite living in Howard City at the time, she and her husband continued to travel to Parnell for Sunday Mass each week.
It was on one of those Sundays that the topic of Courtney’s job came up as she was chatting with Fr. Mark Peacock. Pregnant at the time, Courtney was hoping to move from full-time to part-time employment. As it would happen, St. Patrick School was looking for a part-time preschool teacher.
In a twist of fate, Courtney realized she already knew the school principal as well. When she was student teaching at Kenowa Hills Public Schools, current St. Patrick School principal Scott Czarnopys was down the hall working as a long-term substitute in another classroom.
Courtney applied for the job and was hired. After a few years at the preschool level, she moved to the kindergarten classroom when long-time teacher Carole Walsh began her well-deserved retirement. Now about five years into that position, Courtney has found that there is nothing more rewarding than watching students bloom and grow during their first year of full-time school.
Kindergarten: Year of Growth
The kindergarten year is one of tremendous academic growth, Courtney says, and writing is her favorite subject. She loves watching children discover how letters click together to form words and those words make sentences and then those sentences become engaging stories.
“The academic gains in kindergarten are so huge,” she explains. “They have so many lightbulb moments.”
At this young age, school is still an adventure for students, and most arrive each day excited to learn. While all that excitement can also pose a challenge when it comes to keeping students on task, the pay-off is an engaged class that soaks in knowledge. Regardless of their abilities at the start of the year, Courtney’s goal is for every child to meet grade level expectations before they head off to the 1st grade classroom.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant teaching in 2020 looked different than it did in years past. Courtney spent months in the spring teaching her class remotely. Zoom calls with 24 kindergarteners primarily served as a chance for socialization and weren’t ideal for teaching core lessons. However, having that experience in the spring has left Courtney feeling more prepared for other incidences of remote teaching.
Despite the challenges of the current year, Courtney can’t imagine doing anything other than teaching at St. Patrick School. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she says. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.” And for that, future kindergarteners and parents can be grateful.