This essay, written by a former Montessori student, was submitted to our alumni update email. Congratulations, Mrs. Clayton, on this honor. You can truly tell how much Paxton learned from her and we are honored to have her working with our children.
Mrs. Jo Clayton was my teacher for both 4th to 5th grade. She taught me for two years simply because the school I attended had an extremely small amount of students, and therefore abnormally few teachers. Fort Smith Montessori, the school I attended, is not even ten percent of the size of Chaffin. This woman taught me all of the fundamentals for every subject, and also how to study properly. The best teacher I have ever had would undoubtedly, hands down, be Mrs. Clayton.
The deciding factor whether a student likes a teacher or not is if the subjects being taught are fun and interactive. Her class offered quite a bit of freedom, and although there were only five kids in my class, I still had an amazing time. One Friday, as a reward for having good behavior each month, she let us make a fort out of blankets! We could always talk with our peers as long as we finished our work. In keeping with the well-known Montessori teaching method, we did not have assigned desks and could freely walk around the room to do our work. I loved this element of freedom in the classroom because if I found myself sitting next to somebody I did not get along with well, I could simply get up and move somewhere else in the room.
Additionally, Ms. Clayton’s teaching style had an extremely unique twist to it, unlike any other teacher. She taught us in a hands-on manner; consequently, she was able to more easily capture her student’s imagination. For each week, she would give us a set of “works”, and we had to take the initiative to plan and decide when and in what order to complete them. This teaching strategy taught us how to plan our work, control our schedules properly, be organized, and use our time wisely. Mrs. Clayton knew us all extremely well because she talked to our parents, and to us, about personal matters. The fact that she knew us all individually helped her to teach us better because she knew how we learned and how to actually hold our attention. We had undeniably interesting power point projects and research papers which we worked on for an entire semester. We worked on these projects as teams, and the older kids helped the younger kids with creative ideas. For example, we were assigned a project on a specific country and my team chose Egypt. Throughout the semester we displayed various aspects of Egyptian life. We brought examples of Egyptian food, clothing, music, religion, and weapons. These were vivid examples that allowed us to learn about our country much better than just writing a paper about it.
Although she allowed us to have fun, she was also pretty strict and always required us to apply ourselves. She would discipline us by making us write sentences for saying mean things or acting out. Sometimes we would even have to clean the toilets! I used to be a rowdy kid and seemed to get into trouble a lot. Sometimes I would have to write so much it felt like my hand was going to fall off. She gave us little room for error on our work, but would always help us if we asked for it.
Overall, Mrs. Clayton places as my number one teacher in the way she could hold a student’s attention and develop their learning skills. She just understood me and was generally amazing, knowing the way that kids worked and how to teach them in both a fun and helpful way. I cannot thank Mrs. Clayton enough for encouraging me and giving me confidence in myself, and I will never forget her diverse way of teaching. It is true a teacher can impact a student’s life in so many ways, and Mrs. Clayton certainly made a strong impression on mine.