Eclectic kindergarten teacher Tara Holley

Daniel Dye / The Herald Kindergarten teacher Tara Holley works on a newsletter for parents at Eclectic Elementary School.

Kindergarten teacher Tara Holley considers Eclectic Elementary School her perfect home.

“I’ve heard wonderful things about the school,” Holley said. “My mother-in-law taught here for 32 years and my husband grew up here. It was a perfect fit for me.

We all have a common goal and that is our students’ success. We work well as a team here.”

She said kindergarten holds its own special joys.

“The students are so excited to learn new things,” she said. “Helping them learn in a new environment and being able to help them grow and develop at this age is so rewarding.”

The 2003 Wetumpka graduate teaches kindergarten and is in her ninth year at Eclectic.

Holley said some of the challenges she and most all kindergarten teachers experience is getting a classroom of students used to the school environment.

“Not all children have the opportunity to have a pre-K experience before coming to school,” Holley said. “It can make things a little more difficult because you are starting from scratch. Once we get them settled (and) get our groups going, I am able to really help them.”

She said the children are initially tested to find out where their skill levels are at the beginning of school.

“I’ll see where they are at the start of the year,” Holley said. “I’ll be able to pinpoint what the students need.

Holley said the students are put in groups consisting of other students with similar skill levels.

“We will learn phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension,” she said.

She taught first-grade students the first six years of her teaching career. She said she uses that knowledge to help her prepare her kindergarten students.

“By the second half of the year, I want them to apply what they learned,” she said.

Holley said she focuses on the educational foundations with her students.

“Most importantly, kindergarten is foundational,” she said. “We are really working on reading fluently and understanding what we learned. We are taking it beyond the surface — really taking it to the next level.”

Holley said the way she teaches has evolved the past few years.

“We talk about ways to engage students,” she said. “At this level, you have to make it fun. You have to be creative and constantly changing and really make learning fun. Getting them involved and using technology.”

As for Holley’s future, she sees herself working in an outreach capacity.

“I think I would like to work more with parents,” she said. “Being able to do outreach with parents and social media interests me. Giving parents some tools to use, like social media, to help their children is beneficial.”

Holley considers networking opportunities with other teachers has improved her teaching methods.

“We’ve been doing that a lot in the county,” she said. “We call it instructional rounds. We go to other classrooms in our schools. I got to see a second-grade class and noticed where I can change something I am teaching so students are familiar with methods and verbiage in those later grades.”

She said the networking opportunities go beyond the walls of Eclectic.

“Even other schools in our community are networking,” she said. “Holtville teachers came here before Christmas and I did a lesson. The teachers gave me feedback and I want to go see how they teach in their classrooms. We are constantly learning from each other. I’m glad our principal and our superintendent give us that environment to do that.”