NAEYC Member Spotlight: Keya Johnson
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Preschool teacher at the Johns Hopkins Child Care and Early Learning Center in Baltimore, Maryland
he children in Keya Johnson’s preschool classroom love science. “Sticky, slimy—they love making playdough,” Keya says, so she spends a lot of time researching unique playdough recipes. Why does Keya think the children love science so much? “It’s always something different. We’re never doing the same thing,” she says. Keya tries to build on this interest in science by introducing new and interesting activities. For mixing playdough, Keya found a recipe replacing the usual ingredients of flour, oil, and water with hair conditioner and cornstarch, allowing the children to experiment with unfamiliar materials. In an activity during the fall, they used their playdough mixtures to make ornaments for the holidays.
Keya views all of this science engagement not only as current learning, but preparation for future learning as well. “We were talking about force and motion this week, so one of the activities was using our lungs as a force to breathe through a straw to see the objects we could blow.” The children loved this activity, which led to the scientific concepts of force and motion sticking in their minds. “One little boy said to me, ‘I’m using my force to move this chair, Ms. Keya!’”
Engagement is a word that speaks to much of Keya’s teaching philosophy. “Every day is different, even though we do the same routines,” she says. Over her 14 years as a teacher, Keya’s own engagement in reading has led her to share her love of books and stories with the children in her class. She holds story time twice a day, and she goes to the library frequently so she always has fresh books to read to the children. “They’re always asking, ‘Ms. Keya, when are you going back to the library?’” Some favorite books include the No, David! series by David Shannon, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., and John Archambault, and anything by Eric Carle.
When asked her favorite part of being a teacher, Keya struggles to select just one thing. She loves working with the children and their parents, sending home a daily newsletter called What in the World Happened Today? that gives parents insights into the ideas their children are learning about. Pictures and captions show different centers and activities, allowing for the events of the school day to become a back-and-forth conversation between parent and child. “Everything should be balanced,” Keya says. “The children have their home environment, they have their school environment, and everything should connect.” She has been using this newsletter for two years with great success.
“The children have their home environment, they have their school environment, and everything should connect.”
“To put in words . . . I don’t know,” Keya says, wrapping up the conversation about her favorite part of being a teacher. She just likes all of it? “Yeah, I really do,” she says, laughing.
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