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Miss Bean (Gr. 2 EA)

Kindness is key for Miss Bean


Mother Teresa once wrote: "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."


Those words ring loud and clear for Miss Bean, an educational assistant in Grade 2 English at the K-W Bilingual School. "Children are so precious, and you have to be careful with them," says Miss Bean. "My mother taught me that, and that's how I wanted to be treated as a little one, as I recall."


A mother and educator, Geanna Bean worked in various sales positions and modeled prior to teaching. "After university, I worked an office job, but that didn't suit me at all. So I became a flight attendant for Wardair," says Bean, who graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University. "I really loved that job, because I hadn't traveled very much before that, aside from a Grade 12 school trip to Greece, and my family went to Florida once in a motor home when I was 13."


"And as a flight attendant, I got to travel to France, England, Denmark, Mexico, the Caribbean, and all across Canada. Prior to that job, I had never been to another province. It was so wonderful, and to think that I didn't have to pay to see all those places -- somebody was paying me to do that!  I remember a layover in Hawaii, swimming in the Pacific and thinking I was in paradise. At the time, I thought it was the best job in the world."


Miss Bean traveled the world on a Boeing 747 for a year before Wardair Canada went under. "What a massive jet. It felt like it took five minutes to walk from nose to tail," says Miss Bean. "It was such a thrilling experience, because everybody on the plane was in a good mood and excited to be going somewhere. It was fun and I missed it so much."


The gentle manner and patience required to be a good flight attendant were skills Miss Bean transitioned into her teaching. 


"I always thought it was so important to speak to kids kindly," says Miss Bean, who began her work at K-W Bilingual as a volunteer in the classroom. "When my daughter Summer went into junior kindergarten at another school, the teacher didn't want parents coming into the classroom, which immediately made me nervous. I asked myself, 'Why not?' 'What's the problem with that?' And I remember hearing the teacher say, 'All right, line up' in this nasty voice. I didn't like what I heard at all in the way the teacher was interacting with the children."


That's why Miss Bean went searching for an alternative. "The KWBS had been recommended to me for Summer," says Miss Bean. "But I was still nervous because of that prior experience. At KWBS, I didn't know how the teachers were going to interact with the children, and I didn't know what the classroom environment would look like. So I was absolutely relieved when Mrs. Klatecki said, 'You are absolutely welcome. Come on in.' I felt so much better and that's why I starting volunteering in senior kindergarten.  I really liked how calm she was with the children”, says Miss Bean, who was hired 11 years ago.  “She was always fair and I really liked her manner”.


When a teaching assistant position at K-W Bilingual opened up, Miss Bean jumped at the opportunity to work in junior kindergarten in English, which lasted one year. Miss Bean would then spend five “fabulous” years working in grade one with Cheryl Maclean. After Mrs. Maclean decided to teach grade 6, Miss Bean made the move to grade two to work with Mrs. Henderson. "I like working with Lisa because she's very calm, and she really knows how to engage the students and set the tone of the classroom," says Miss Bean. "It's a carefully crafted environment and culture that makes it a safe, enjoyable place for the kids."


Along with being a strong proponent of recycling and the environment, Mrs. Henderson creates projects that teach kids about the way people live in other countries, says Miss Bean. "We do lots of fun stuff with social studies and art, and Lisa came up with this amazing idea called Children of the World," she explained. "Each child is assigned a country, and then the student has to research what language they speak, what kind of food they eat, what kind of games they play and what their houses look like.'


"Then they design a paper doll where they make the clothes out of paper or fabric, and give the doll an identity. It goes up on the wall with all the other ones and they hold hands. I really like that one, it's an extremely creative activity and the kids are always keen to learn so much about other cultures."


In Grade 2, friendships forged run deep for kids throughout their years at K-W Bilingual, Miss Bean believes. "The boys gravitate to one another based on what sports they like, I find," she says. "Soccer right now is a big one, and the girls are really into skipping."


"The cutest thing happened a couple of weeks ago. The children were making a play - somebody wrote a script and they were performing Little Red Riding Hood outside in the schoolyard. And they were doing this all on their own. In all my years, I'd never seen the kids do this. They brought costumes and props and everything, and they were having an absolute blast."


The most difficult time of the year for Miss Bean, though, comes at the end of June. "That's the hardest part of my job, when the school year ends and the kids go upstairs to Grade 3 after the summer holidays," says Miss Bean. "We're on a different schedule and I don't see them nearly as much. You bond with these kids, and it's great to see them growing and move on, but I do miss them."


Miss Bean says an essential key to connecting with kids is finding out what makes them click. "Watching children develop and learn, we try to find ways to foster their interests by observing their strengths and certain abilities through various projects and writing workshops, which I find so rewarding when you see kids flourish," she says.


"But for me, the most important thing to help students thrive is to let them know they are valued as people and respected for their individuality, and that they are cared about. And that love is reciprocated, as I get so much love back from these kids. I really think I have the best job in the world."


The strength of K-W Bilingual lies in its small school culture, Miss Bean is certain. "Because it's a smaller school, strong relationships are made between parents and teachers," she says. "I like the staff I work with, they all seem to genuinely care about the children. I've also made so many friends with parents at our school. It's been a wonderful social network for me, and I've had so many positive experiences come from teaching here."


Miss Bean also believes that the power of positive reinforcement leaves an indelible impact on kids for a lifetime. "I try to reconnect with the kids in later years and tell them positive things," she says. "We forget sometimes that kids care greatly about what parents think of them, and what the adults in their lives think. They're looking for feedback, and when you give it to them, boy you better make sure it's positive."


"I remember once going to a course and hearing someone say that it takes a thousand positive comments to overcome one negative one. That's why it's so important to remember how much power our words have when it comes to kids. As adults, we may sometimes toss off a comment and not give it much thought, but if it's perceived in a certain way by a child, it can have an everlasting negative impact on a kid. You have to be aware of your words and you have to be careful."


Dedicated, compassionate, and hard-working teachers like Miss Bean realize education is about more than reciting facts and figures. It's about guiding a child's intellectual, moral and personal growth. They expect all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don't give up on the underachievers.


"I would want all my students to know that I care about them, I value them, and that I want the very best for them," reflects Miss Bean. "And my personal motto is a simple one: Be kind."


Marshall Ward is a freelance writer and parent at the K-W Bilingual School.