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Posted: December 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Teacher spotlight...Burny Drumheller

Teacher mixes academics with fun the week before holiday break

Photo by Carrie Huenke/

Christmas cheer: Burny Drumheller taught kindergarten for a year before moving to third grade.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around Burny Drumheller's third grade classroom at Ficquett Elementary School.

Winter holiday books line shelves and everywhere you look, children are diligently working on assignments involving reindeer and Santa. Yet contrary to what an average observer may gather, it's not all about fun and games.

Friday will be the last day of school for students until Jan. 6, and students are showing up to school this week feeling excited about the upcoming break. Short attention spans most always accompany this jitteriness. Therefore, this is a week when Drumheller can effectively mix academics and fun together to accelerate the learning process in many key areas important in the third grade curriculum. With Criterion Referenced Competency Test testing coming up in the spring, December is a great time for students to learn multiplication skills in creative word problems about reindeer antlers, for example. Students practice cursive writing and other general writing concepts by writing papers on such topics as what they would give Santa for Christmas.

"After all, they are children and Christmas is a very exciting time for them," Drumheller explained. "I love mixing academics with fun the week before the break. It's a great time to work things into the curriculum in fun ways."

Drumheller said her students seem to get a kick out of how she centers each day of the week on a Christmas book just before the winter break. All of the day's lessons and assignments in every subject somehow relate to the book of the day. For example, on Monday, she read "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" aloud to her students and then used the book as her theme throughout the day. Tuesday's theme was "The Night before Christmas." The class discussed the history of the book and why the book was written. The class will also read "The Velveteen Rabbit," "The Grinch" and "The Polar Express" before the week is through.

Drumheller's students will write papers, learn to spell holiday-themed words and will also enjoy a few tasty snacks and treats along the way. The class made Santa cookies after reading "The Night Before Christmas" and will savor warm cups of hot chocolate after reading "The Polar Express." Since the traditional room-mother-organized holiday parties are not typically held beyond the second grade, this creative week gives the third graders their very own outlet for holiday excitement.

"This also gives everybody a chance to send treats during the week, and since we are celebrating all week long, it keeps Friday low key," she said.

The holiday-themed week before Christmas fits in naturally with Drumheller's teaching style. She's been teaching for two decades and has always firmly believed in promoting independence and social skills. The holiday centers she has created help instill those values by forcing her students to work together, to get along with one another and to approach her for help as needed. Of course, she always instructs and teaches thoroughly before her students have time to work independently and in groups.

According to Drumheller's students, she is personable, warm and always ready to lend extra help in any school subject. For this reason, they said they would not mind returning to school after Christmas holidays, even though the holiday excitement will be behind them.

Drumheller said she began teaching third grade after spending about 10 years teaching kindergarten. She immediately fell in love with the age group.

"I really like third grade because they are mature, but they are young enough to be excited," she said. "They still enjoy school and also the third grade curriculum is very serious, so it keeps it very interesting."

Drumheller also said she loves the satisfaction she receives knowing she has done her part to help shape a child's future.

"I think that the more educated a person is, the happier they will be," she said. "I love knowing that I'm helping my students become successful and happy people."


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