Standing at the head of the classroom, Kacie Frost demonstrated to students at Our Lady of Lourdes School how to play a game all about the food chain — you know, who eats whom in the wild.
“What is a producer?” she quizzed her third-graders.
“Isn’t that normally a plant?” student Samantha McLaughlin correctly replied.
After talking through the levels of the food chain, students were each given an image of of a living thing — such as an animal, a tree or fungi — which they held against their foreheads while classmates gave them clues to help guess correctly before time ran out.
Frost is teaching science and math to three sections of third-graders at the University City school. It’s a format change this year to make extra space accommodations for students during the pandemic. In addition to being in the classroom, Frost also is teaching several students whose families have chosen a virtual learning option.
Seeing her ability to be flexible and adapt in the classroom, one would be hard pressed to guess that this was her first year as an educator. Because of her efforts, Frost was one of 59 new teachers who recently were honored with the Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award. The award, given every two years by the Missouri Association for Colleges of Teacher Education, recognizes new teachers for their outstanding accomplishments in their first two years of teaching. Frost was surprised when she was notified by email of the honor and when the school hosted a ceremony for her in January.
“She is exceptional at creating engaging lessons and meeting a variety of student learning needs in the same classroom simultaneously,” Our Lady of Lourdes principal Amie Koenen wrote in a letter recommending Frost for the award. “Her classroom is a place where clear expectations and guidelines allow for creative student learning.”
Building relationships with students has been one of Frost’s priorities. That became all the more important as she’s juggled both in-person and virtual students, as well as several instances where students had to be quarantined because of exposure to
“I want to have that strong relationship with students, because there are those times where you have to have those tough conversations with them,” she said. “Having that relationship builds on respect — respect to the teacher, teacher to student and student to student. I want my students to have a good community in the classroom, especially now since they’re all ‘stuck’ in here together” because of the pandemic. “They’re here with their 10 closest friends, I like to say.”
Frost has played an instrumental role using technology to develop best practices for teaching strategies, such as creating a Google Meet schedule for virtual learners and QR codes to auto generate restroom logs — which has helped with COVID-19 contact tracing procedures.
She also teaches a student who is on the autism spectrum, and has worked with the student and family to establish consistency in classroom management and expectations, creating a successful learning environment for the student.
“One of my mindsets is every day is a new day,” Frost said. “One of the things I like is that positive talk for all of the students. If something is accommodating a certain student, I try to do that with every student. That benefits everyone. I say, ‘Maybe we should try this,’ or ‘What’s something else we can do?’ I like to probe with questions to see if they have solutions. We focus a lot on our interactions with classmates and working with different supports with that.”
A graduate of Villa Duchesne High School, Frost attended Saint Louis University, where she earned a degree in education, with a focus on elementary education. It was at SLU that she became more interested in the Catholic faith, attending Mass with friends at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church. She entered the Church in 2018. She also enjoys teaching religion to her homeroom students, exploring together Jesus’ life and public ministry on earth through the stories of the Bible
“That’s a really exciting thing to talk about it because you get to hear about His life,” she said. “And they ask questions like, ‘Did that really happen?’ I love getting them to ask those questions. I tell them you need to talk with each other, learn from each other, what are your experiences?”
Frost said she is grateful for the path she has chosen as an educator — even in the midst of a pandemic.
“I like to say it’s all part of God’s plan,” she said.
Outstanding Beginning Teacher Awards
The Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) honors exemplary new teachers across the state for their work with Missouri’s youth. Nominations for this award come from universities, colleges and teacher education institutions from across the state. This year, 59 new teachers will be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in their first two years of teaching. Awardees were notified in January and will recieve their awards in May.