Kirsten Anderson spent much of her early life immersed in an environment of young children.
“My mom had a daycare,” said Anderson, “so I have been around kids all of my life.”
While in the second grade, Anderson also had a teacher who inspired her, because she made learning fun.
Those two experiences would have an impact on Anderson that led to her decision to get involved in the lives of children as an educator.
So, after leaving her hometown of Willmar for college, Anderson enrolled at St. Cloud State University where she earned a degree in elementary education.
Anderson took on her first role in education at a private preschool in Bird Island, but after a year decided she wanted to try something different.
“I wanted to see what it was like to teach in a public school setting,” said Anderson.
So, she began her second role as a preschool program teacher in the Redwood Area School District. This year Anderson is working with the Discovery Time and Ready, Set, Grow programs locally, all in an effort to help those youngest learners get ready for the start of Kindergarten and the rest of their years as a student pursuing a high-school diploma and even beyond that.
Discovery Time, explained Anderson, is a program that meets two days a week and is for those who are three years of age.
“We meet for two hours and 15 minutes,” said Anderson.
The Ready, Set, Grow program is open to children ages three through five, and it meets every day for three hours in the afternoon.
Altogether, Anderson is working with 40 different students in these programs, adding, while it was a bit of a challenge at first, she knows each child by name.
Working with so many different children is a big change for Anderson, adding the fact that she has an assistant in the classroom as well is also something new for her.
Both, she added, have been part of what she called a great teaching experience.
Anderson said when she opted to become an educator, she knew working with younger children, especially those in second grade and below, was her niche. She appreciates the fact that she has the privilege of being the first teacher many of these students see as they begin their experience in the world of education.
“Many of them are coming to school for the first time,” said Anderson. “I want that to be fun for them.”
The students come at varying levels of personal understanding, which means working with them on everything from basic letter identification and shapes to identifying colors and doing art projects.
“We do a lot of songs and movement,” said Anderson with a smile when asked how it is to work with the youngest students who are full of energy and enthusiasm.
In addition to working with the two daytime programs, Anderson is also involved in the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program and works with children ages one and two one night a week. Kids and their parents attend the ECFE programming, and Anderson said there are currently five children enrolled.
The night class involved education for both parents and children, and, while others take on the role of working with the parents, Anderson interacts with the kids.
Anderson said she will work with her students throughout the entire year, adding there is a chance in some instances where a child may be in her class more than one year.
“They all keep me on my toes, that’s for sure,” said Anderson.
The daughter of Ralph and Judy Anderson said she is the first in her immediate family to become a teacher, but she does have an aunt and some cousins who are or have been involved in the field. Anderson said she really loves working in the local school district, adding she likes the environment of support she is experiencing from her colleagues.
Anderson admitted she did not know a lot about Redwood Falls when she arrived, with the exception of a few visits to Ramsey Falls, but since becoming part of the community she feels for her this is a good place to be.
“It’s not too big, but it’s not too small either,” she said.
When she is not enjoying the interaction with her students, Anderson said she likes to spend time reading and watching Netflix.