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One Class at a Time: Washington Middle School's Kate Varley

OCAT Kate Varley
Posted at 9:02 AM, Jan 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 11:02:03-05

MISSOULA - Nowadays, there are so many good books for students to read, but when young students get their first textbook, the magic of reading for fun can fizzle out.

This week's One Class at a Time Winner, a sixth grade teacher from Washington Middle School, is hoping to keep the magic of reading alive.

Kate Varley teaches everything from Health and PE, to social studies and English Language Arts. Somehow, she manages to juggle even more - a classroom library.

“Every year for my birthday I ask my family and friends to donate a book to my library, whether it’s their favorite book or a book off of the list that my students and I co-create," Varley explained. "I was seeing some gaps in the excitement for those books, but not having that accessibility for all of my students.”

Varley’s sixth grade library is inclusive as she reads books suggested by her students, while they read books suggested by her. At the beginning of the school year, she encourages her students to read 40 books from different genres.

Recently, some of her students have voiced that they want audiobooks, to try reading in a different way.

“I have some students who say that they love to work on a project, or a puzzle, or legos — and it helps them focus better," Varley shared. "So I really want to have the audio component as a part of our library to check out too so I don’t lose the passion and enjoyment of reading just because it feels cumbersome to hold onto a 400 page book.”

Varley hopes the audiobooks she will purchase with her grant of $250 will assist the students who know they learn differently. At the same time, she hopes the audiobooks will keep the magic alive of reading for fun.

“Sixth grade’s a tough year... I feel like they spend a lot of time in the late elementary years where reading starts to change for them and can become tedious and can feel like work," Varley described. "So I really want them to read books that they want to read, which ignites that passion and that fire for them.”

Varley's ultimate goal as a teacher is more about getting students to choose reading - over and over again.

“There is a lot to compete with, with kids in this generation for their focus and attention, and if I can get a kid to curl up with a book, that’s a lifelong goal, I’ve hit it."

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