McCarter Kids' School Year Off to a Great Start

We took a trip to McCarter Elementary School recently and only one word can adequately describe our visit: Wow!!!

Each and every classroom was filled with engaged students who were not only perfectly behaved, but also actively learning. Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, McCarter is home to over 420 students, all of whom clearly make the most of their school day.

We were lucky enough to visit on Hat Day, where, for 15 tickets (awarded for good behavior), students could “pay” to wear a hat (or they could save their tickets for a bigger reward later). Principal Katherine Cooney explained that the staff has implemented PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. With this method of behavior management, students are praised and rewarded for good behavior, while unfavorable behavior receives little acknowledgement. The students are also encouraged to remember the Three R’s: Be Ready, Be Respectful, Be Responsible. The system is clearly working well; students throughout the school displayed nothing but perfect manners and maturity beyond their years. As they waited in line or moved between classes, their voices were low (or off) and their hands were by their sides. A visit to several of the classes yielded similar results. We also got to watch several teachers in action and they were equally impressive.

Our first stop was to Syd Armfield’s classroom. Ms. Armfield was teaching a lesson entitled “What Do Scientists Do?” The children, seated in groups, worked to answer that question. Their answers were surprisingly advanced, showing a vocabulary that illustrates the importance McCarter Elementary places on science curriculum. The students were curious, thoughtful, and eager to learn. They also had wonderful classroom behavior, never talking out of turn and always following directions.

Our next stop was to Cindy Riscoe’s 2nd grade classroom, where the kids were enjoying a morning snack during their math lesson. Ms. Riscoe employed a fun technique to engage her students in the lesson. Rather than offer the class a math question and wait for a few raised hands, she presented a math problem to the students and gave them an opportunity to solve it on their own. They each wrote their answer on their own dry-erase board and, when enough time had passed, she had the kids all show their answers to her at once. Needless to say, the kids were all enthusiastically participating and clearly loved the activity.

A stop to Cherie Garrett’s 1st grade class was next. The room was filled with six- and seven-year-olds, but it was near silent as the students concentrated on their worksheets. The only sound came from one corner of the room as a single child read aloud quietly to Ms. Garrett for a timed reading test. Watching nearly twenty 1st graders work silently so that their classmate could complete her reading test was truly touching.

The students at McCarter Elementary exemplify good behavior and active learning. They are a true testament to the dedication of Mrs. Cooney and her staff—and their parents, as well. McCarter Elementary is a shining example of what makes Topeka Public Schools a great place to be!!!


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