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Kindergarten educator has zest for teaching reading


Derek Craner, as a kindergarten teacher, knows that progress is a process and that trying new things can enrich experiences.

At first, the 2013 Glacier High School graduate thought he would go into nursing when he started college. He had taken many biology lessons and his mother, who was a nurse, praised the profession. However, by his freshman year in college, he decided to switch to teaching after thinking about how much he enjoyed working on the Kalispell Parks and Recreation Youth Summer Camp Program – planning and leading kids in games, activities, and field trips. In 2016, he graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman with a degree in elementary education and a minor in reading for grades K-12.

When asked about his advice for other high school students who aren’t sure what to do as a career, he said, “Don’t be afraid to try new things.”

Trying new things doesn’t always come easy and requires practice and perseverance. Reading is one example in which all of the above paid off as he was halfway to completing a master’s degree in reading from Montana State University-Billings.

“Reading when I was a kid was really hard. I didn’t become a reader until the fourth or fifth grade,” said Krainer, referring to the help of school interventions and extra practice at home. “I think this helps me connect with kids who are going through a really tough time. I understand the conflict a little bit.”

As an undergraduate student, his college advisors directed him toward focusing on reading. He became more passionate about the subject after taking courses in how to teach reading and writing, where he learned how the brain works in relation to comprehension.

“Reading is a complex thing for education,” said Krainer, adding later, “Our brains aren’t normally wired for reading. It’s designed for spoken language, so reading is a new concept for everyone. For a 5 or 6 year old, that’s a lot. It’s a miracle what we can do.” And what children can do in a short period of time.”

Craner emphasized that practicing reading at home on a daily basis goes a long way in helping children make progress.

“I tell parents that a little goes a long way. If you’re driving and the kids are in the back seat, ask them to read the stop signs, or at breakfast, read the cereal box,” said Krainer.

Then he said, help the kids find what they love to read about.

“Just try everything under the sun,” he said.

born and Growing up in Kalispell, Crainer also didn’t expect that he’d come home after college.

“It was never in the plans,” he said. “You know, you go away to college and you always say, ‘I’m going to go out and find new things and new places. “After graduating from college, I got a senior job; it was out of my comfort zone but it gave me a really good perspective.”

After teaching second grade in the Superior degree for two years, Craner found himself traveling frequently to Kalispell and Missoula. When he sought a new position, Cayuse Prairie School was among the first to call him for an interview. Taking his own advice on trying new things, he took the position.

“I never saw myself teaching kindergarten. Once I started doing it, I loved it,” he said.

Kindergarten educational takes a person who is patient, flexible, highly organized but also creative and strong in communication, among other traits.

“Everything is new in Kindergarten. Kids start at ground level and go up – they wash hands, grab pencils, put things away. Kindergarten means back to basics. When I started teaching, I assumed all kids could do it, but it’s a learned behaviour,” It is a learning curve for him after his education for the upper grades. “You have to be very direct.”

Starting with the basics also means that kids come in different abilities, with a big factor being whether or not they’ve attended preschool. Nursery is optional in Montana.

“I am a huge supporter of preschool. I can see a huge difference in the kids who can go to preschool and who can’t,” he said.

“When the Core Core was implemented, a lot of first grade skills moved to Kindergarten, assuming a lot of the kids went to preschool. We had to revamp the way Kindergarten was taught and move it a lot forward.”

What makes teaching are the little things that come up during the year he said, “Thank you” from the student or a parent to the highlight at the end of the year for seeing the student’s progress.

“Especially in Kindergarten, the highlight is always the end of the year. I keep students’ work and their assessments to compare and there are massive drastic changes in what they can do. Seeing the growth in children and seeing how much they have learned over the course of the year – that is the highlight” .

Reporter Hillary Matheson can be contacted at 406-758-4431 or via email hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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