February Staff Spotlight

February 28, 2022

This Month’s Team Member Spotlight Features…Tom McCall Elementary’s Natalie Richards, who keeps kids engaged with teamwork, projects and lots of fun.

How long have you been working for RSD — where and in what roles?  

I began teaching for RSD as a student teacher while obtaining my master’s degree through George Fox University. I was blessed to learn from third-grade teacher Julie Field at M.A. Lynch Elementary, and then from seventh-grade math teacher Katie Browning at Obsidian Middle School. Since then, I have had the opportunity to teach for five years with the staff at M.A. Lynch as both a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher and then transferred over in September 2021 to my new home away from home, Tom McCall, as a fourth-grade teacher. 

What made you want to be a teacher, and what is it about fourth grade that appeals to you? 

I knew at a very young age I wanted to teach. I love working with each of my students and their families so I can teach the whole child. I want to make a positive impact in our community, and what better way than working with our children and their families?

Upper elementary is a fun age where our students are starting to gain the confidence of being their own person. I am grateful to be able to work with them each day as they navigate this. We talk a lot about positive self-talk and being kind to one another. I’ve found the best way to model this is when we make mistakes, both in academics and with behavior, we identify the mistake, find what we can learn from it, and move on. 

I understand that you do a lot of grade-level work with the whole group, and that you engage in lots of big projects. Why do you try to engage students in that way? Can you give some examples?

Projects in general are memorable and engaging for our students. While they are most definitely fun, students don’t always realize how much they are learning in the process. Our students not only learn the academic standards that are the central focus, but also soft skills such as working as a team, communicating, and problem solving. I know my students are learning and growing when they can create something with what they have learned.

Working with my amazing teaching partners helps to model teamwork for our students and demonstrates what a school family looks like. Our students create projects as a whole fourth grade because they are a fourth-grade family. They hold a special place here in our classrooms, in fourth grade, and at Tom McCall. Some examples of projects we have done and have yet to do as a fourth-grade team are STEM Day, Oregon’s birthday celebration and string art, May Day flower delivery to a nearby assisted living facility, Wonder novel study and kindness project, and National Parks STEM project.

What is your favorite part of your job? What is the biggest challenge of your job?

I love building relationships with my students and their families and working with the teachers, IAs, office staff, and administration in our district. There is so much to learn and so much room to grow, which is something I strive to do each day.

I feel like the biggest challenge in education is that you can always do something better. I can teach a lesson or complete a project and step back and think, “Next time, I will…” This is also what I love about teaching, though — nothing is ever the same and it is always changing and evolving to fit our students, their needs, and their personalities.

What else would you like us to know about you? 

My husband and I were both born and raised in Central Oregon as were our kids, Brayden and Brecken. When I am not teaching, we love to adventure outdoors. I grew up whitewater rafting on the Deschutes and skiing, snowboarding, and hiking in the Cascades. A teacher to my core, I love to plan out every minute of every weekend and school break with fun adventures and memories for my family.

“If the goal is to be a champion for your students and the best teammate, Natalie has done that in spades! Natalie Richards is a consummate professional and one who does incredible things for kids!”
— Drew Frank, Tom McCall Elementary Principal

“Natalie Richards exemplifies the qualities of an effective teacher. She develops strong relationships and bonds with students and their families. She creates an engaging learning environment where all students feel safe to take on challenges. She encourages and celebrates her students’ personal growth. Natalie also values her own continued growth, constantly seeking opportunities to improve her professional practice. Natalie is a team player, always willing to help, support, work with, and share resources among and with her colleagues.”
— Linda Seeburg, Executive Director of Academic Achievement 

Redmond School District | 145 SE Salmon Drive. | Redmond, OR | 97756 | P: 541.923.5437

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