At the first-grade level, teaching is more than just about reading, writing and arithmetic.

Sydnie Weiss-Anderson, who is teaching first graders at Reede Gray Elementary School this year, understands that and is bringing a balanced approach to her classroom.

Yes, students are developing important reading skills that will help to prepare them for the rest of their lives, but they are also learning how to get along with each other, how to be kind, to cooperate and to interact with the people around them in a positive way.

Developing those social interactions is just as important as academics, she said.

Weiss-Anderson, who is originally from the Luverne area and a graduate of Adrian High School, earned her early childhood education degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D.

“In high school during my senior year I was a peer helper,” said Weiss-Anderson, adding she had the chance in through that program to work with preschool students.

That is when Weiss-Anderson knew she wanted to work with kids.

However, her first inclination was to become a pediatric nurse. Yet, Weiss-Anderson knew that did not suit her, because she really wanted to focus more on helping young children as they developed.

While in college she had the opportunity to do an observation in an educational setting that convinced her to change her plan. That is when Weiss-Anderson knew that she wanted to be a teacher.

Weiss-Anderson said the decision to work with the youngest students in school, as her degree allows her to work with students up through the third grade, was an easy one.

“They are so innocent,” she said, adding they still give their teachers hugs. Yes, said Weiss-Anderson, she has even had some of her 19 students call her “mom.”

Weiss-Anderson said she applied for three different teaching positions, adding when she visited Redwood Falls she just felt welcome. She added Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, personally met with her and showed her around, and that made a positive impression on her. When she was able to meet the staff at Reede Gray, it solidified her decision to come and teach in the local school district. 

Having graduated early, Weiss-Anderson spent part of the last school year serving as a long-term substitute, and now she is serving in her first role as a full-time educator.

“The kids are amazing,” said Weiss-Anderson.

As a teacher, Weiss-Anderson has established a way to set the tone for the day, as each student – when they walk into her classroom – is given the chance to choose how they are greeted. Whether it is a simple “hello,” a handshake or a high five, Weiss-Anderson can quickly gauge how things are going to be that day.

In that greeting time, Weiss-Anderson is also implementing those social skills, as students are expected to greet her as well as their fellow students.

As a teacher, Weiss-Anderson is providing academic education in a variety of subjects, adding, however, that she really enjoys the chance she has to teach students by connecting them to what they are learning. That, she said, could be as simple as looking at rocks and having the students recognize that they have seen a similar rock in the past.

“They get excited about those connections,” she said.

Weiss-Anderson said she is the first in her family to become a teacher, adding she has been supported by her family in that decision.

When she is not in her classroom, Weiss-Anderson enjoys playing volleyball, doing any activity related to water and spending time with her family and friends.

Weiss-Anderson said things have been going well in her role at Reede Gray Elementary School, and she is looking forward to helping her students as they develop those academic and social skills they are learning in her first-grade classroom.