Meet Ms. Harter, a Real Self-Starter


Ms. Harter, a PCR teacher, constantly thinks ahead of new, exciting ways to mold her students! Her innovative approach casts a new spin on some classic teaching methods--a plus for a classroom full of animated first graders.

Upon entering her colorful and organized classroom, you can’t help but notice that she has refashioned the seating with bouncy, bright yellow, stability balls. As the students work, they are free to move on these flexible seats. As one girl pointed out, “It gets the wiggles out.” Ms. Harter agrees and believes that kids are full of kinetic energy that should be accommodated to promote focus. “They are sitting up straighter, listening attentively, collaborating with classmates, and participating in learning. When their bodies are active, their minds are active!”

Next, she plans to incorporate a new, centrally located device that all students will use during their daily math and reading stations. Ms. Harter and many other PCR teachers have already been using adaptive technology programs to allow each student to work at an individualized level and pace, to bookmark lessons, and to track progress. She plans to use this new device to streamline the process for each of her students.  

She's not stopping there. For her most recent inspiration, she will definitely have to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty, after all, it does require dozens of pounds of earthenware clay!

Since PCR is home to a functioning kiln, Ms. Harter is preparing several projects that will infuse academic standards with art. “Common core is incredibly rigorous. When students are able to see the same content presented in multiple ways--art, manipulatives, visual examples--it enhances their understanding. For example, geometry is introduced in first grade. It’s difficult for them to grasp  3-D objects on a 2-D surface. Art enhances their understanding of academic concepts.”

Using tangible art will also help them with their writing, as they are now learning to use adjectives and add details. “We will be using visualization to enhance writing. It’s really important to me that what we are doing in art is what we are doing in math, reading, and science.”

Her enthusiasm coupled with her creativity has yielded a bold, can-do attitude. She admits this is new territory for her. However, she isn’t going to let that stop her from learning a skill to aid her students. “I have found that if the focus is on learning, the art will be fantastic. It’s about the process, not the product. We’ll focus on what we learn along the way.”

She is also prepared to share! Ms. Harter hopes this project will get the entire first grade fired up!  “Sometimes it takes one teacher starting a new project or activity, because then, the collaboration grows. I ordered plenty so other teachers would have access to it.”

A self-starter, Ms. Harter has posted her projects on and received support from donors nation-wide, as well as the corporate sponsor Disney.  

Most of all, Ms. Harter greatly appreciates the generous contributions and support of the La Canada community. Having taught at other schools for over five years, she has noticed that a supportive community can make a big impact on the classroom. With this class being her smallest, she has more time to spend with the students, to focus on their individual needs, and to communicate with families. “The schools are really well supported, not only by parents and teachers, but also by the community as a whole.”