Carrie Poole sees fifth grade as a critical year in students’ educational journey, one in which they’re preparing to transition into middle school and begin juggling more teachers and classrooms.
The St. Monica Catholic School on Mercer Island fifth-grade teacher is there to help her students traverse their paths by staying organized and focused. She’s one chapter in the students’ ongoing story that’s being penned as they move through grade levels.
“I’m not the primary educator, the parents are. And so really understanding and knowing my role in being a classroom teacher is to support the parents and try and help them and become cooperators in the education of the children,” Poole said.
Poole, who graduated from Lake Washington High School in Kirkland and completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University, respectively, is in her second year at St. Monica and considers the fifth-grade realm as her sweet spot. Overall, she’s taught in classrooms for five years and in a Montessori-style religious education program for 10 years.
She was drawn to the classical curriculum — or theme-based learning — at St. Monica and she’s able to share her Catholic faith with her students.
United States history is the fifth-graders’ theme for the year, and for example, they study explorers and the obstacles they faced along their journeys.
“So I try and find literature that fits into that. We look at the writing projects that work in with whatever we happen to be reading about during the Revolutionary War period. We’re reading ‘Johnny Tremain,’” said Poole, adding that they’ll later examine the Declaration of Independence, memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address and write out the Mayflower Compact.
“And since children respond so well to stories, much of what we do is in story form,” she said.
On the current events front, during the 2020 general election Poole brought in a ballot and a voters’ guide and discussed the election process.
With each historical event that Poole guides her students through, she tries to bring into focus as many viewpoints as possible to paint a complete picture of what transpired.
“The idea being that we need to understand history so that we can see how much our civilization has grown and to see where we can still improve,” she said.
Poole said that students have told her that they’ve learned to enjoy history during their time in class together. Like the explorers they study, Poole hopes students “will engage the world with wonder and constantly be looking for knowledge.”