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Teacher Map Leads to Geyser of Gratitude

Much to her surprise, Dutton Elementary School teacher Heidi Kruizenga became the noun in the center of a gigantic bubble map, so her kindergartners could surround her with enough positive words to make her burst with happiness.

Principal Shawn Veitch, who popped in unannounced, challenged students to show their Thinking Map knowledge by naming lots of ways to describe their teachers. Teachers are training in Thinking Maps, which Dutton is using in instruction school-wide.

Kindergartner Visser uses his thinking cap while coming up with words to describe his teacher
Kindergartner Visser uses his thinking cap while coming up with words to describe his teacher

“She always makes us laugh,” said one student as Veitch wrote “funny” on the whiteboard. “Nice,” “Pretty,” “Loving,” “Caring,” “Helpful,” were others. Students also explained their thinking under each adjective: “She wants us to be a good reader,” they added under “Caring.”

Veitch said he wanted to do something fun with the new organizational tool so the school’s 14 teachers could hear how much their students care about them. “Our teachers are so amazing. They love the kids so much,” he said. “They get into that daily grind, and I wanted them to hear what the kids really think of them.”

Dutton teachers are using Thinking Maps — including Circle, Bubble, Double-Bubble, Tree and Flow maps — to guide students, beginning in kindergarten, to organize their thoughts in a systemic way, which enhances problem solving and critical thinking skills, she said. The eight map styles go with the eight processes of thinking, which help students sort details, use descriptions and understand sequencing.

Veitch took a photo of each teacher inside their map to frame as a gift.

“It was very heart-warming,” said a flattered Kruizenga. “It’s really special to hear how their brains are working and the ideas they are connecting, even when applying it to an impromptu activity.”

“Happy,” indeed, shows Dutton Elementary School teacher Heidi Kruizenga

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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