By Meredith Hunt
Walking into Katelyn Bartlett’s classroom, your eyes are instantly drawn to the giant tree that consumes the entire corner of her classroom. Katelyn Bartlett, 4th grade teacher at Prince of Peace School, takes it upon herself to educate students beyond the textbooks. Her classroom environment is just one example of this. Two different types of leaves hang from the branches of the tree. There are green leaves, with each student’s name printed on them, and leaves created by students featuring flags from different countries. These leaves signify the many different cultures around the world and even those represented in the classroom. Katelyn emphasizes the Seton Shared Value of community with her students by encouraging them to learn and appreciate other cultures around the world and within the classroom. Katelyn said, “Having flags of all nations represented in our classroom has been a cool opportunity for kids to ask questions. We’ve had a lot of really great dialogue in our classroom because of it and I think that’s how change starts to happen.”
The roots of a tree keep the tree grounded and provides the tree with what it needs to survive. Katelyn’s tree represents the idea that, ultimately, we are all rooted the same. “We all need the same things to survive regardless of race, religion and cultural norms,” shared Katelyn. The symbolism behind both the leaves and the tree demonstrates to students that no matter where we come from, we are all rooted the same.
Katelyn also hopes that this tree will inspire students to dream big and recognize that there is more out there beyond their community. “I want students to understand the immense value they add to our society,” said Katelyn. She hopes her students realize that there is so much more out there that life has to offer, including opportunities to explore and cultures to learn from. Katelyn explained, “If you make kids aware of what is going on, you allow them to ask questions and verbalize how they feel, and pretty soon, you’ll see kids making big moves to help our world thrive.”
Being a teacher is much more than educating the next generation. Teachers often go beyond the job description to help students in ways that transcend academics. Katelyn explains that her students are what drives her to go the extra mile. “Kids certainly see and understand the difference between a teacher showing up, and a teacher being present and all in. I want our students to know that they’re valued,” shared Katelyn.
Through the simple act of creating a tree, Katelyn has gone above and beyond to instill valuable life lessons and has created a sense of community, a Seton Shared Value, among all her students.