As a second-year teacher in March, Maddie Remijio gets closer to wrapping up another successful school year as the second-grade teacher at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Overland Park, Kansas. She is constantly reminded of the impact and growth she is making on her students as they continue their early childhood education.
A Kansas State University graduate in 2020, Maddie is currently working on her Master’s degree at Emporia State University, with an anticipated graduation date of May 2024. While preparing to break into the teaching world three years ago, the global pandemic threw a wrench in her plans and delayed the start of her career.
“I felt really prepared to jump into my first year, but then COVID-19 happened,” said Remijio. “Everything kind of slowed down. But luckily, I had been working part-time at a local La Petite Academy and was able to serve as their Lead Summer Camp and Preschool teacher until May 2021, before accepting a position at Pleasant Ridge Elementary.”
Once onboard at Pleasant Ridge, Maddie strived to create a supportive and embracing classroom so every one of her students feels loved, cared for and accepted for who they are. Creating a classroom environment that stresses and emphasizes inclusion is a pivotal piece of her learning structure, and it’s something that is easily noticeable within the first few months of a new school year.
“When we play a review game or a team building game, the students pat each other on the back and say, ‘good game’, even if they lose,” said Remijio. “The goal is for every child to feel supported, not just by their teacher, but by their peers as well. Nothing makes me prouder than seeing my students celebrate each other.”
The welcoming and loving spirit that the administrative staff displays at Pleasant Ridge resonates with Maddie in more ways than one. Her fellow teachers and co-workers continually go out of their way to offer assistance, advice and assurances to the second-year educator through frequent classroom drop-ins and passing conversations. This generous gesture reassures Maddie that she is in the right location to begin her teaching career.
“The best piece of advice I’ve heard is, ‘be the best version of yourself’. It can be tempting to model your teaching off mentors you’ve had in the past, but the things that make you stand out are the things that your students will remember. Strive to do well, but do well in your own unique way.”
This mindset is also transferred to her students. One example is through her annual ‘Polar Express Day’ that takes place each December. Similar to the movie, she prints golden train tickets for each student and then writes a series of traits and adjectives on each ticket that best describe the student. The unique and carefully chosen words are designed to boost her students’ morale and allow them to enter the holiday season knowing just how special they are.
Maddie’s approach to teaching came when she completed her student internship at Ogden Elementary School in a sixth-grade classroom. She praises her cooperating teacher, Caleb Shelton, who helped push her to think about the ‘why’ behind each lesson while also encouraging her to do her best each day.
“I have very high expectations for my students, and when those expectations are not met, there’s a consequence,” said Remijio. “The good thing is that kids need consistency, and they actually feel safer when they understand what they should be doing. There’s less challenging behavior when students know what to do and what will happen if they do not.”
“Maddie works hard to make sure her students feel heard and valued, knowing it’s an integral part of their early development,” said Maddie’s nominator and older sister, Michaela Remijio. “To me, her best educator quality is how she makes a deliberate effort to ensure each single student feels safe and loved. I have seen Maddie grow into an incredibly passionate person, whether that be standing up for human rights, giving to those less fortunate or using her privilege of being a teacher to make the world a better place. She is confident, brave and strong.”
“Seeing the success of such a young educator like Maddie is refreshing, encouraging and inspiring,” said Christina Lively, Blue KC Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “Beginning her career during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging enough, but Maddie’s passion, resilience and determination is already shining brightly within the Pleasant Ridge Elementary School community. We’re honored to recognize all of her hard work and look forward to her next accomplishments as an educator.”
Blue KC Sporting Samaritans will continue to be recognized monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games this season. Fans are encouraged to nominate teachers and students who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities by using the form online at https://www.sportingkc.com/Blue-KC.