Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

When she was six years old, Maddie Stockdall didn’t make a list of toys she wanted for Christmas. She asked for an overhead projector, complete with transparency sheets and Vis-A-Vis markers so she could teach her stuffed animals.

This, she said, was the moment she knew she wanted to become a teacher. Nineteen years later, Mrs. Stockdall received the Campus Teacher of the Year Award at Frontier School of Innovation Elementary.

As a teenager, she attended Olathe Northwest High school, and then earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Master’s in Education from Truman State University.

She has been with the district for three years—her entire teaching career. Mrs. Stockdall began teaching Fourth grade, but transitioned to Third grade to expound on her experience.

“There’s been no doubt that I wanted to be a teacher. I couldn’t picture myself in any other profession. Everyone has always said I’m so great with kids, and I think it’s true,” she said.

Albeit her short tenure, she won the award over nominees who had been there much longer. Mrs. Stockdall said this was the most difficult to digest.

“Honestly, even now, it doesn’t feel real,” she admitted. “I tend to be super reflective of myself and I knew I was going up against eight-year teachers and ten-year teachers, who I admire and grew from. It was mind-blowing that I was even nominated, and to be picked—I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I’m very honored and very humbled.”

So, what contributed to her success? She said she prides herself on being very creative and develops deep classroom connections among her students.

“I really do think that I’m very innovative,” she said. “I try to always think of a more efficient way to do things or a more creative way.”

One unique aspect of her classroom is full-flexible seating. With no desks or assigned seats, students are able to choose where they would like to sit before starting their work. Mrs. Stockdall said she believes this contributes positively to the students’ learning experience.

“It helps them be comfortable,” she said. “Getting to choose what works well for them, whether that would be sitting on the floor or in scoop rockers, hopefully leads back to more investment in their work because they’re not distracted by being uncomfortable. And they have the ability to have a choice instead of being told.”

When she shows up for work in the morning, she said she understands that she is not just a teacher and has learned to draw upon her Psychology degree tremendously with her interactions with the students.

“I focus a lot on understanding the ‘why’ of why children’s behavior is happening. A lot of students in my class have multiple traumatic experiences that they’re bringing, and you can’t learn if you’re not comfortable and if your needs aren’t met.”

With a lot of students facing family issues and troubles, she said she starts the day with her students with a wellness check, to get a better grasp on how they are feeling as they enter her classroom door.

“That’s a big part of how we start our morning, with a wellness check, to determine what’s going on and how can we understand what you’re going through and help us become more aware. I try to use a really big emotion vocabulary so they can identify what they’re feeling so they can learn to express that to others.”

Building relationships with and among her students is another big focus for Mrs. Stockdall. She said she understands the cause and effect if these things are out of balance.

“Those are the two I foster the most because it’s a ripple effect. If you’re comfortable and you’re ready to be in class and you want to be in class, you’re going to learn a lot better and be more receptive to what I’m teaching if you’re not distracted.”

Mrs. Stockdall said she has also seen the need for life skills, such as conflict resolution, to be instilled in students at a young age, and does her part to ensure her students learn how to diffuse situations effectively.

“I have reflected a lot on my teaching this year. You have to teach those things if you want them to learn, especially with this demographic and the trauma they have at home, they have to learn those kind of life skills. That’s the only way they’ve grown so much this year.”

The highlight of being a teacher, she said, is in the students themselves.

“The best part of being a teacher is the reflection and the growth that you see with the students. Whether that be in academics, behavior, or personal growth, it’s amazing to get to be a part of that journey from where they started to where they ended and left your classroom, and then seeing it continue on.”

Although teaching is her passion, Mrs. Stockdall said it doesn’t come without its challenges.

“One challenge is really getting down to the root of things. Why are we not being successful in math? Why are we not being successful in how we communicate with someone? There is always a reason, but sometimes it takes a little more time to get down to it. I feel like the hardest part is getting that relationship built with each student, not wanting any of them to feel neglected, less valued, or less of a priority, and individualizing the time as much as I can to find their why.”

Lisa Lamb, principal of Frontier School of Innovation, said the protocol for choosing an award winner among the nominees is based on a 10-criteria rubric, which Mrs. Stockdall met and surpassed.

Beyond the rubric, Ms. Lamb said Mrs. Stockdall contributes a great amount to the school and its students.

“She brings a big positive attitude and a sense of community among her classroom. She really strives to get those kids to build that relationship within their classroom and each other and it’s more of a family atmosphere in there and not just students doing their own thing. They are all doing it together for the benefit of each other. They hold each other accountable and she has really instilled in them a growth mindset where they can do it. They are learning to believe in themselves; the sky is the limit for those kids.”

Mrs. Stockdall will be going back to school in June for her Administrative degree to pursue her next goal: becoming a principal.

“I am always looking for ways to make change as a teacher, and although I love it, it’s limited to my four walls. I feel that if I continue to grow and improve myself and work towards that title, all those changes that I want to implement could be school-wide.”

What keeps her coming back and giving her all to her students? She said she hopes to be a positive stamp in their memories the way so many of her own teachers impacted her.

“Just knowing that you left a memory in someone’s life and that you gave them a reason to work towards something, whatever goal they set— that is what makes me keep doing what I’m doing.”