2019 Kansas Master Teacher Carolynn Phalen
“I believe that Mrs. Phalen is the most wonderful and kind teacher,” said one of Carolynn Phalen’s former students, now eight years old. “She was always prepared for anything. She was always there and ready to call the nurse or someone else if someone threw up.”
Beyond providing the special care early elementary students occasionally need, Phalen has learned a thing or two about getting those little bodies to concentrate and focus. But does that mean sitting still? Not in Phalen’s classroom. She has concluded, “Students who have difficulty with concentration and focus benefit from movement, sensory input, comfort, and choice.” Now, her students get to personalize their learning environment through choosing seating of all kinds – including stability balls, bean bag chairs, scoop chairs for rocking, kneeling mats – and an elevated table for anyone who wants to stand to do their work.
As a result, her principal stated, “Carolynn’s classroom is a joy to visit! Students reflect their teacher’s love for learning and kindness for one another.”
Phalen applies a growth mindset to herself, as well as her students. Studying ways to support students’ social and emotional growth, Phalen recently has studied trauma-informed practices in the classroom. Observing a student who seemed to fit the category, Phalen began implementing ideas to help the student, working with her “throughout the day to allow her to feel an environment that is emotionally safe and nurturing. [The student’s] interactions with other students in the classroom started to improve, which has led to an even more inclusive environment within our classroom community.”
Phalen received her bachelor’s in elementary education in 2002 from Kansas State University. In 2007, she earned a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Baker University. She began teaching in the Salina district in 2003.
“I know when my boys are in her care she is treating them with respect and holding them to the highest standards,” said a parent of a former and a current student of Phalen’s. “She is truly changing and inspiring our next generation, one student at a time.”