Gross enjoys challenging her students

Published 10:35 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Every student deserves to be challenged. That is fourth grade teacher Kristy Gross’ educational philosophy.

Gross is in her second year as a fourth grade teacher at Vicksburg Intermediate School. She has a class of 27 students she pushes to work above and beyond what is expected in the fourth grade curriculum.

“They don’t like me much for it sometimes, but they’ll love me for it in the long run,” Gross said.

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She said her perfectionist tendencies drive her to always expect more from her students than what they think they are capable of doing. Gross doesn’t settle for what her students believe is the limit of their abilities.

“My favorite part is challenging the students. I love to challenge. I think challenging students is the key to opening doors they never knew existed,” Gross said.

One way she pushes the limits is by giving her students fifth-grade level work.

“I want them to be a step ahead of the game only because I know they’re all capable of doing it,” Gross said.

This year Gross said she is incorporating more lessons using cooperative, or small group, learning. The students also create math raps where they write a poem, song or rap about a math lesson like multiples of seven.

“Most times they don’t even know they’re learning. It gives them a chance to show their skills off to the class and to prove something to themselves at the same time. It helps with social skills,” Gross said.

Another activity she is bringing to the classroom is one she learned in training called carouseling where she has definitions written on pieces of construction paper that are posted around the classroom and students have to determine the vocabulary word or name of the math concept the definition describes.

“That gives them a chance to move without getting in trouble,” Gross said of the groups of students who walk to each definition posted on the walls. She said the students are good at working quietly and are excited just to get out of their seats.

Technology is also a major component in her lessons. The class uses a Promethean board, an interactive whiteboard, and each student has a Chromebook, a type of laptop, they can use in class.

“I use (the Chromebooks) as an educational tool as well as a reward because they have to know that we were blessed to get these Chromebooks,” Gross said. “They absolutely love them. This is my way to get through to them because a lot of times when you put pencil and paper in front of a child they’re bored with it.”

By keeping the students captivated on the Chromebooks, Gross said it cuts down on the children doing something they shouldn’t. She said many students don’t have access to a computer at home and are simply excited to use the devices each day, which makes it a good incentive to behave.

As a student teacher in first grade at Bowmar Elementary, Gross thought she wanted to have a classroom of younger children, but she took a chance in a fourth grade position at VIS and fell in love with the older age group.

“I love it. I can’t see myself anywhere else except for fourth grade,” Gross said.

Gross’ mother taught a Bowmar for years, and she was glad to be placed in the same school for her internship, even though her mother had already left.

“It was like a dream come true when they told me that I was student teaching there. I was shocked, but I was very excited,” she said.

The fact that Gross’ mother was in the teaching profession heavily influenced Goss’ own ambition to become a teacher. Plus when she played school as a child with her two sisters, Gross said she was always the teacher and never wanted to play the student.

“I played school all the time,” Gross said. “I had to be the teacher. I just couldn’t be the student, and now I see why.”

Gross graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1999.

“We’re the best class. We ended the decade,” Gross said.

Eventually, Gross decided to pursue a career in education. She took classes with the University of Phoenix online and got her bachelor’s degree in education.

Gross said she has two sons who both attended VIS, and she has a daughter in kindergarten at Dana Road Elementary.

“They’re my world,” Gross said.