Veteran teacher Tanya Dallmeyer decided some time ago to depart from conventional morning routines in her classroom and take a creative approach to start the day.
“For years, my students have always had ‘morning work’ waiting for them when they arrived,” the 2nd grade teacher at St. Peter Catholic School in Jefferson City, Missouri told The Lion. “This practice has always been somewhat problematic due to the various times students arrived at school. I implement a soft start to our day using STEM activities.”
STEM is short for the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.
Dallmeyer says since implementing the change, the transformation to the school day has been remarkable.
The routine actually begins the day before, when students select a STEM box before leaving school, leaving them with anticipation of what awaits the next day.
Upon morning arrival, student creativity is ignited with domino blocks, interlocking building discs, magnetic building sticks and more. New monthly additions to the boxes keep the excitement alive.
“The time allows them to ease into their day and gives me an opportunity to see where they are emotionally,” Dallmeyer says of the impact.
“If a student is showing signs of having a rough morning or doesn’t seem to be too interested in the STEM box, I will sit next to them and start creating with them. I may ask how their morning has been or what they had for breakfast.
“And then we pray, and we give it to God and then we’re able to move on and take care of the day.”
Dallmeyer’s impact on student learning extends beyond academics, intertwining faith and service.
For example, she guides her students towards a biblical worldview by exploring Jesus’ parables and emphasizing acts of kindness, such as by participating in Little Box of Sunshine, a local charity that gives cards to children who are ill and need prayer.
The students include a “special message and a joke” inside of each card, the teachers says.
“This gives my students the opportunity to see that small acts of kindness and charity can grow into something much bigger,” Dallmeyer told The Lion. “Hopefully, this inspires them to continue to see the face of God in others and all that they do.”
Dallmeyer’s impact on students is why she is one of 12 educators around the country to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion.
During her 27 years teaching, Dallmeyer says it’s not only her students who have deepened their understanding of the faith, but she’s also enriched her own.
“I grew up in the faith, in the church, too, and you just kind of believe what you’re told,” Dallmeyer says. “Now that I’m teaching it, I’ve learned so much with the kids. If they have a question about it, and I don’t know it, I’m on the phone with our pastor. Then I go to them and explain it or I have him come down and explain it to all of us.
“Before, it was a routine. Now it’s my life.”
The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will attend a special awards event in Washington, D.C., where they will also receive a monetary gift.