It’s no surprise to any parent that a child can find infinite possibilities in the simplest of materials, but there are some imaginative teachers who also create new worlds out of everyday objects for their young students. Tena Christianson, a Preschool teacher at the West Linn, Oregon, KinderCare® Learning Center, is one of those teachers who has the ability to turn a humble cardboard box into a post office, a train, or even a spaceship.
“If we can boost up things, make it [more] fun, brighter, more exciting, then they’re going to like it,” she said when asked where she gets her creative inspiration. “If you keep it with the same thing they’re going to get bored and you’re going to start having problems. So I just like to change it up, make it bigger, better, brighter.”
Maintaining a high level of energy is important in any classroom, but it’s especially important when faced with a room full of two-year-olds, as Tena is.
“Her energy, her teaching mode is very contagious,” said Center Director Cindy Sexton. “A lot of my teachers network with her and look for new ideas. They respect what she does in her classroom and spin it off into their classroom.”
Tena’s ability to interact with each of her students and her incredible talent at transforming her classroom into a magical place by creating a new environment for every curriculum theme earned her the 2013 Knowledge Universes Early Childhood Educator Award. She makes it her personal goal to ensure each one of her students masters the skills they need to successfully move up to their next classroom with self-assurance and joy.
“What I love most about her is absolutely her dedication and commitment,” said Tiffany Wright, Region Vice President. “If you’re down on the floor in her classroom at any time, you know what she’s teaching the children. Everything is a teachable moment. She turns cardboard boxes into trains, and planes, and automobiles. The kids are confident, they’re happy, and they’re learning every day in her classroom.”
Tena is quick to point out that her students aren’t the only ones learning in their classroom: They make her think about things from a different perspective nearly every day.
“They inspire me too, because if I’m trying to do something, trying to get them to learn something in a certain way, [sometimes I need to] be able to change it and go, ‘Alright, that wasn’t working, let’s try it this way,’” she explained.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Getty Images for Knowledge Universe.
2013 Early Childhood Educator Award Winner: