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Teacher Spotlight: Keri Wahl, 4th grade

Where were you born?

I was born in San Francisco to an international family - Kiwi mum and Canadian-raised American dad. My childhood was spent between Alaska and New Zealand, with 4 brothers, 4 sisters, and 2 foster sisters.

Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?

Third grade was definitely my favorite! Because I had read all the books and knew the material for the grade, I was able to spend the reading hour curled up on a beanbag reading adventure and travel books to my heart's delight.

Why did you decide to be a teacher?

Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. Mum had taught all over the world. It came naturally, being the second child in a large family. But when I got to college, I almost didn't pass the phonics test because of such a heavy New Zealand accent, which a professor taught me to tone down.

What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

My favorite part of being a teacher is watching "Ah-ha!" moments happen and being around the wonderfully spontaneous sense of humor the 4th and 5th Graders possess. Of course, camping twice a year is also a blast! And when history comes alive, it vibrates!

Share an example of when a student had an "Ah-Ha!" moment in your classroom.

One such moment repeats itself whenever we do the Civil War Unit's Underground Railroad simulation. Without a doubt, it changes people. Another occurred recently when one student drafted his first story. When I suggested that it was so good we should read it to the class, he hid shyly in the room while his peers sat spellbound by the fictional world and fantastic characters his imagination had created. How they wanted to listen to the next part. What a great reward and motivation! That student has since begun writing intensely - despite many literary challenges that would hold a normal kid back. These experiences happen every day.

What is the most important thing you hope your students take from your class?

The most important thing I hope my kids take with them is the knowledge that I love them, no matter what! When you know that, the stage is set for straight honest learning. I also hope they don't expect themselves to be perfect, to enjoy making a mess once in a while, to give themselves one hundred mistakes per day and still be allowed to be a good person. I hope they learn tolerance and respect - for each other, themselves, and their surroundings.

What makes Arches Academy so special, and why do you like working here?

Arches IS a special place to work. I am empowered to teach to the fastest, most energetic child in the room, as well as to the struggler and the dreamer. Students are allowed to experience learning through hammering together the Trans-continental Railroad, forging the Provo River like Lewis and Clark, digging for fossils in Dinosaur National Monument, and serving their friends across the grades through meaningful mini-courses. The small class size enables learning to happen. I am grateful to be a part of Arches.

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