by Norma B. Dennis - Jamestown News - North Carolina, USA

When the door opened for Phillip Bledsoe to teach kindergarten at Jamestown Elementary School, he gladly walked through it. In the eight years he has been teaching he has worked with every grade level in elementary school, but definitely likes kindergarten the best.

“It is their first year of school. If they have a positive experience it will stick with them,” Bledsoe said. “I want them to find out, right off, that learning is fun. I try to make every day enjoyable.”

Bledsoe loves music and often incorporates singing or dancing into his lessons. Whatever the format his lessons may take, however, he teaches with a sense that his students are little adults, noting his view might come from the fact he had no brothers or sisters.

“I treat my students with respect,” he said. “I see them as young minds that should not be treated like babies. I think the kids like it. They feel comfortable interacting with me.

“We roll from the time the kids come in,” added Bledsoe, who describes himself as laid-back and fun loving. “We move around a lot. But I have had to learn not to put too much in each day.”

To find enjoyable ways for his students to learn, Bledsoe pulls from a variety of sources when planning the curriculum, including the Internet and teachers’ magazines. His wife Mandy, a kindergarten teacher at Millis Road, also provides inspiration.

“What is nice is we get to work together once a week at home planning (lessons),” Bledsoe said. “She is excited because being a male I bring a different perspective to it. We each have planning sessions with teachers at our individual schools, then share things the other can use.”

Bledsoe likes to incorporate several skills into one lesson. A simple story he reads to students about a kindergarten teacher planning a circus for her class also becomes a lesson in colors and vocabulary.

“Could animals really go to school?” he asked his students about the characters in the story. “There is a special word for books that are pretend. It is the word ‘fiction.’ Say it with me.”

Bledsoe also tries to teach students respect for others, politeness and different behavior appropriate for different environments.

He was motivated to teach because he wanted kids to know there was someone who cared about their future and what they would become as adults. He had many teachers who made him feel cared for and wanted to emulate them.

But after attending Wake Forest University for two years with the intention of majoring in education, Bledsoe quit school to play in a band.

“I was young and thought it would be fun,” he said, “but I realized it was not the life for me. I wanted to teach more, so I went back to school at Winston-Salem State University. I learned a lot from the experience, but I don’t miss it one bit. I enjoy teaching and made the right career choice.

“At first I wanted to be a music teacher, then decided it would be a wonderful thing to go into elementary education. I thought I could make more of an impact.”

Bledsoe has no desire to move into administration, believing the classroom is the place he should be.

After coming to Jamestown Elementary in 2004, Bledsoe taught one year in fifth grade and the rest in third grade. Because he had already established himself as a well-liked third grade teacher, students going into that grade level and their parents were disappointed to find he had dropped down to kindergarten.

“I would like to continue teaching at this level,” Bledsoe said. “It would not hurt my feeling if I spent the rest of my 18 years in education teaching kindergarten.

“Every day is something new and exciting. If you are feeling down, those little faces will brighten your day.”

Bledsoe would like to see more male teachers enter the classroom at the lower grades.

“I think it is good for students at a young age to be taught by teachers of different genders, as well as teachers with different styles of teaching,” he said. “I have been lucky to have the opportunity to teach and guide these young minds. It is a joy to watch them grow and become mature learners as the year progresses.”