Saturday, 2 September 2017

Teacher Spotlight: Catherine Ko Heinrichs

My name is Catherine Ko Heinrichs. I have been teaching for 17 years. I have taught Nursery, Grade 2, Grade 4, Grade 5 and Grade 5/6…and now Kindergarten! I teach at Montrose School and proud to call kindergarten my home there. My particular interest these days have been outdoor education in the early years and how being outside encourages positive developmental growth in children.

How and when did you become interested in Reggio-Emilia Philosophy?
After I had my son and went back to teaching was when I became more aware of this philosophy of teaching. I became more purposeful about immersing myself in the RE Philosophy because I was intrigued by how my little son thought, what he found interesting and what he had questions about. The natural environment and his wonderings about his place in the world have been an inspiration to me as a teacher. I want my students to wonder and be curious about the beautiful world we live in.

What are your favourite aspect of the philosophy?
The simple fact that children are driven by their own interests is important to me. It is common sense but sometimes I think we get bogged down by curriculum and the demands of assessment that we forget that the best learning comes from their own explorations and discoveries. Bringing the outside in as well, as being in our natural world, is an exciting part of this philosophy. My students and I have spent many a time in the “Enchanted Forest” at the end of the street. There is some unfettered wilderness that we like to run through and explore. The ticks cramped our style a little bit this year. We also have a mini outdoor classroom where we have our story time and explorations. One of my student’s parents made these great garden boxes that we have painted with our handprints. We like dig around for worms and maybe plant a few plants.

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What resources would you recommend?
The book Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education by Gillian Judson. My mentor Tannis Nishibata-Chan lent it to me. She is a sharp cookie and a bonny lass.

What do you find challenging about teaching this way?
Oh everything! Responsive teaching, making sure you are letting them lead which can be challenging, especially when there is a curriculum to cover. I also think the documentation can be hard. I take a lot of pictures and I need find a better way of organising them to show the progression of their learning.

How has your teaching changed since you began learning about Reggio-Emilia?
I have always been a careful "kid watcher". I think it has allowed me the freedom to use my teacher’s intuition a bit more and feel more confident doing so. I definitely believe in the Forest School philosophy and we go outside more. I try to emphasize to the students that whatever we do inside, we can do outside. We have taken a few trips to the forest as well as doing our own version of the Outdoor Challenge. One of my favourite quotes is, “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better!” - Albert Einstein

Like any teacher our job never stops. I find it challenging, joyful, inspiring, and fun. I am excited to keep learning more about the RE approach and to keep reflecting on my teaching practice. At this time you can reach me at

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