PANAMA CITY- This week's Golden Apple winner is a kindergarten teacher at Northside Elementary School in Panama City. Jennifer Kasztelan was nominated by a parent who writes: "Mrs. Kasztelan goes above and beyond to help and encourage the fun in learning and takes away the fear that normally follows learning something new. My son Braxton has grown so much in the last few weeks as a student. Her dedication makes me know 100% that we have an awesome school year ahead of us!"
There is never a dull moment in Mrs. Kasztelan's kindergarten classroom. "Her classroom is so engaging, the kids are always doing hands-on activities. Most importantly she keeps the lines of communication open with home, she is excellent at making sure the parents are involved in every step of the process," said Principal Amy Harvey. "I love these students as if they were my own children, truthfully. I'm passionate about introducing them to lifelong learning," said Mrs. Kasztelan.
Even this early in the year, it's clear her students already really like school. "I like to learn math and science," said Tinsley Johnson. "We are learning about sight words," said Kahlia Law. "I like learning about math," said Braxton Brannon.
Using stations to offer students different learning opportunities has proven an effective strategy for this age group. "I like stations because we get to do some wonderful crafts," said Tinsley. "Children learn with different abilities. We've got children who like to speak and type and so forth. So these different stations hit a myriad of different learning styles and abilities," said Mrs. Kasztelan.
"She is setting the stage for success for those children every day, setting really good expectations in the classroom, teaching them about the routines of school and how to be successful in school," said Principal Harvey. Her students have this special message for her: "Thank you!" said Tinsley. "Thank you!" said Kahlia. "Thank you!" said Braxton.
Mrs. Kasztelan is also well known for the celebrity reading program she organizes every spring!