In Sarah Volkens’ second grade classroom at Waukee’s Eason Elementary, students learn through hands-on discovery enhanced by technology. “She has an amazing talent for inspiring her students to learn the material in different ways,” said Cindy Clements, a parent of one of Volkens’ former students.
Volkens, who is in her seventh year at Eason, draws her inspiration from the small moments of breakthrough she observes on a daily basis among her students. “Any time they relate something we’re talking about to something they’ve previously learned—then you know they’re making that connection,” she said.
There’s a lot of material to cover in the second grade curriculum—from math and science to reading and social studies—and Volkens tries to keep things interesting for her students while still challenging them. In keeping with her attention to each child’s individual learning style, Volkens said she particularly enjoys teaching math because she’s able to see the many different ways her students solve the same problem.
Technology plays an important role in her teaching methods, as well. “I like to incorporate as much technology as I can, because it’s a big part of their lives,” said Volkens. In social studies, the second graders use kid-friendly websites to research the cultures of other countries. During individual learning time, students work in “discovery stations” where they can take apart old laptops or scan QR codes to play videos related to certain topics.
Volkens’ teaching style encourages her students to grow personally, as well. “I saw so much confidence in her students,” said Clements. “Whether they wanted to participate in the talent show, give a report in front of the class, or just share a story, she always made them feel comfortable.”
When she’s not with her second graders, Volkens enjoys spending time with her husband, Mike, and their infant son, Jackson. Even with the busy schedule of a teacher and mother, Volkens also finds time to go fishing and attend Iowa State football games with her family.