Amanda Geelan and her husband, Brett Geelan, have loved living in Forest City for many years. The Buena Vista University (Storm Lake) Elementary Education graduate is in her 14th year in education, but ecstatic to be midway through her first year as a Kindergarten teacher at Forest City Elementary School.
Settling into her new family at Forest City Elementary School, she said it has been a fantastic year. She noted that her colleagues all communicate well and are open to problem solving and helping one another.
“Everyone has been super welcoming and super supportive,” Geelan said. “The team has definitely made me feel welcome in the Forest City Community School District. I’m glad we made the decision to raise our kids in the Forest City district.”
She said the career move has also brought personal benefits into her life.
“It’s been great to get to know the district more and fun being in the same building as my son, who is in Kindergarten Prep,” Geelan said. “I love it. Every day is a different challenge in helping kids achieve all they can and grow.”
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Her 5-year-old son, Ryan, was another reason it made sense for Geelan to make the move to the Forest City Community School District. She and her husband also have a 2-year-old daughter, Gracelyn. Geelan worked for five years as a second grade teacher at Lake Mills Elementary School from 2016 until 2021.
“It’s just so nice not having to commute and being on the same schedule as my son when we live in Forest City,” she said. “Teaching second grade in Lake Mills was a good foundation for working with these kids because I know where they need to be by the second grade.”
Geelan worked for a year in the Waldorf University Academic Achievement Center, helping students with testing and special needs. Her husband, Brett, is another BVU graduate who also worked eight years for Waldorf as recreation, intramurals, transportation director, and more before becoming the Forest City Parks and Recreation Programs Director a few years ago. He is a native of the Ruthven area. She is a Clear Lake native, who said that being settled in Forest City has worked well for their children to be able to see all of their grandparents.
After graduating from BVU with her B.A. degree, Geelan taught for four years at St. Mary’s School in Storm Lake. She taught for a year at the Lake Mills preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds when it was still located at Salem Lutheran Church and before it moved to Lake Mills Elementary School. That is where Geelan became a learner assistant/teacher’s aide for two years.
“I decided in fifth grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” Geelan said. “I told my family “I’m going to be a teacher.' I didn’t change my mind.”
At Forest City Elementary School, she teaches a Kindergarten class that currently has 19 students. She said she sees them start mastering letter sounds before quickly delving into reading. She said a challenge is addressing the needs of individual students who are in different areas in their learning, especially those who have gaps due to COVID-19 disruptions or other reasons.
“I want to make sure those gaps get filled,” she said. “The goal is to give them the best well-rounded foundation to move on and see them leave confident in their reading skills. I’m constantly doing different assessments to find their needs and nurture those needs with things that are engaging for learning. I like getting to know their interests and I get to know the kids so well that if they’re struggling, I can use their interests to spur learning.”
Among class favorites, according to Geelan, are sight chants and dances to help students learn spelling, words and how to read effectively. She said that her students see it as “lots of fun.”
“There is so much growth in one year,” Geelan said. “They come in knowing letter sounds and they’ll leave Kindergarten as readers. It’s exciting to give them that good foundation.”
Geelan said she also loves to inject science concepts into her Kindergarten teaching often. She cited activity examples of students making snowballs out of baking soda, conducting baking soda and vinegar reactions, and learning about items sinking or floating based on their properties. She said students gauged the effects of mixing baking soda with pumpkins last Halloween.
“It’s making it fun and interactive for the kids, explaining complex topics in simple ways,” she said. “They get encouragement about science that makes it easy for Kindergartners. I really love leading the science rotation, because I love science and math. So, I love bringing it that to the Kindergartners and watching them get excited about all of that.”
In her time away from the school, Geelan said that family and spending time with family is a top priority. She said she enjoys cooking or baking with her children in the kitchen and taking them to visit their grandparents.
Geelan said she and her Forest City students are eager to surpass the 100th day of the school year in January. They have been celebrating by counting from one to 100 to work on their number skills.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.