MOSAIC Elementary in Mehlville School District wins $500

ST. LOUIS, Mo. _I’d like to nominate Katie Lakebrink and Christy Huettenmeyer, Studio 3 (third grade) teachers at the new innovative elementary school in the Mehlville School District, MOSAIC. MOSAIC is an acronym for Mehlville Oakville Students Achieve Imagine Create.

MOSAIC Elementary opened in August for the 2017-18 school year in the 95 year-old former St. John’s Elementary school building located across the street from the Mehlville High campus on Will Avenue in South St. Louis County.

MOSAIC is for grades K-4 and features an alternative curriculum — one that uses real-world problems to help students learn and without the restraints grade levels sometimes place on learning. Educators use technology and different instruction methods to help children learn at their own pace. And if a first-grader is capable of fourth grade math, she would learn at a fourth-grade level.

Mrs. Lakebrink and Mrs. Huettenmeyer and their families spent countless hours over the summer preparing their co-teaching classrooms (Studio 3) in this historic building to create a colorful (teal and lime green) and welcoming environment. It wasn’t unusual for Mrs. Huettenmeyer to have her children in tow, sometimes sleeping in the corner of the classroom room, when painting until 1:30 a.m.

They also spent lots of personal time and money to furnish their non-traditional classrooms -- researching the best deals to stretch their district-given budget for classroom furnishings and rummaging through their children’s personal inventory of toys and games that were no longer used.

MOSAIC classrooms are alternatively furnished – no traditional desks in rows. The Studios feature a variety of flexible seating options including balls, sofas, ottomans and satellite lounge chairs. Students sit at a variety of different sized tables. Even the teachers do not have desks.

Each grade level consists of two classrooms, most of which have walls knocked out between them allowing students to move between classrooms. Mrs. Lakebrink and Mrs. Huettenmeyer work together to teach roughly 50 students, giving individualized instruction and working in groups with children when needed. It’s a “community” of third grade.

These teachers are passionate about MOSAIC. For a year prior to the school’s opening, they traveled to similar schools to learn about alternative teaching techniques and philosophies.

Huettenmeyer has 19 years’ experience in education ranging from early childhood to fifth grade and was looking for a way for students to feel empowered. She wants students to LOVE coming to school.

Lakebrink spent the prior 6 years as a middle school teacher. She wanted to try something different and was looking for more ownership in authentic learning. She’s also very excited about using the PBL Philosophy in the classroom – where students work collaboratively in small groups to address problems that approximate the real world so that they find themselves actually engaged in the problem and not just observers of it.

Here are some of the outstanding things Lakebrink and Huettenmeyer have done with their classrooms in the 6 weeks since school began…

1. Provided student teams with GoPro cameras. These teams created and recorded scripts to explain their important roles in every location of the thriving MOSAIC community as part of their Social Studies project based learning.

2. Enlisted parents/grandparents/other family members of students to volunteer weekly in the classroom to play math games with the students, be a Mystery Reader of the week or be a Reading Pal during the week.

3. Lincoln, from The Paws for Reading Program visits Studio 3 every Friday. He acts as an incentive for the children to read more and to read better. Dogs are viewed as a non-threatening entity to promote reading, writing, and increased interaction and social skills in the child. As a result, children experience higher reading levels, higher levels of word recognition as well as word comprehension. The dogs used in this program are especially calm and unobtrusive and settle in as part of the class. The children view the dogs as lovable and non-judgmental, which are the keys to success in this program. Children report that the dogs give them confidence because the dog does not make fun of them if they read slowly or mess up pronouncing a word. The dogs are great listeners and give the child a sense of comfort while reading.

4. Students read the book, Only One You and painted unique fish onto rocks as symbols of their uniqueness. This “School of Fish” was then placed at the front entrance of MOSAIC.

There were 554 applications for the 250 student slots at MOSAIC. Students were picked via a “lottery” system. My 9-year old daughter is one of the lucky students chosen to attend MOSAIC Elementary and have Lakebrink and Huettenmeyer as her teachers.

These two teachers have worked so hard to create a great space for our 3rd grade kiddos and to bring an enormous amount of enthusiasm and this type of learning to our district and the community. I’d love to see them recognized and win the $500 Tools for Teachers award to purchase STEM kits, sensory items and other unique items for Studio 3 at MOSAIC Elementary!

If you would like to nominate a local teacher, click here (http://kplr11.com/2014/01/27/nominate-a-tools-for-teachers-candidate/ )