By Taylor Shillam
Kat Waddell Souser, Kindergarten Skyway Elementary
Skyway Elementary kindergarten teacher Kat Waddell Souser has been teaching for 18 years and can say with confidence that she chose the right profession. “Teaching is my calling. I love it. It is so rewarding and so very challenging,” she says.
“Over the past two decades, education has undergone incredible changes, some for the better and some that make the simple act of teaching almost impossible at times. I still love it,” she describes. “Every day, we laugh, overcome challenges, learn something new, and grow as a community.”
Her favorite time of day is about 3:40pm, when the students have just gone home and the class is quiet. “It is a beautiful time for reflection and honoring all of the hard work that has been done by all members of the learning community,” she shares.
Kat says there have been many experiences to transform her into the educator she is today. “Perhaps one of the most pivotal adventures I have been part of over the last few years is being part of the Lab Host Network (LHN). This professional learning community has allowed me to become a more reflective, confident, humble and striving teacher.” Last October, her class hosted a lab comprised of fellow teachers and coaches. “It was such a blast to watch our learning community show off their thinking and independence,” she describes. “Later that day, we reflected, and the students were so proud of their thinking and modeling. The class takes pride in the fact that they are helping educators to learn and grow in their practice as we grow in ours.”
Kat notes that everything a teacher does is done with a specific purpose. “Often, people confuse public educators with babysitters. As a public educator, everything we teach, every activity, is specifically geared toward a standard or a goal or a developmentally appropriate skill.”
Kat describes her class as play-based kindergarten, where students have voice and choice—but those choices are well crafted to meet learning standards. “Students practice life-worthy skills like cooperation, accepting no, asking permission, and taking ownership of their actions, all while learning to add within 10 and put spaces between their words,” she says.
They also learn confidence in themselves. “I tell my students every day that they are loved,” Kat affirms. “We practice words of affirmation that include phrases like ‘I am strong!’ ‘I am loved!’ ‘I am capable!’ ‘I can do hard things!’ These phrases become more than just words—they become internalized and help students believe in themselves as much as I believe in them."