Helping Your Kids Excel in the Classroom: Meet Tamra and Sarah, the Creators of First Grade Buddies
In our Her Spotlight series, we highlight extraordinary women entrepreneurs, who share their stories and experiences as business women.
Recently, I discovered First Grade buddies, an online resource for educators by educators. My son is now in the first grade, and I’m constantly looking for resources to help him learn and grow academically. I was impressed with the tools available on this site.
Keep reading to learn more about the creators of First Grade buddies, Tamra and Sarah, visionary women who are helping kids to excel in and (beyond) the classroom.
Tell us more about First Grade Buddies!
Our blog, First Grade Buddies, is intended for educators, mostly in the primary grades. Our blog posts include activities to use in the classroom (or beyond) for reading, writing, and math. We try to give practical ideas that can be used right away. Often, our blog posts include resources and book recommendations teachers can use when teaching lessons in the classroom.
What inspired you to start this blog?
We started blogging when we saw a big shift in education and curriculum. We found that, in our classrooms, we didn’t have the appropriate curriculum resources to teach the Common Core Standards and engage students with rigorous tasks. We started creating our own resources to use with our students and to share with parents. We were teaching first grade together at the time and had the same teaching philosophy, so generating ideas came easy for us.
What is your most popular product or workshop available?
Our most popular product to date are called Math Bags. Math Bags are math centers that are easy to prepare and are engaging to students. The appeal of Math Bags is that they can be prepped once and used all year. This is a HUGE time saver for teachers! Once we saw the popularity of Math Bags, we created Literacy Bags as well. Our other top performing products are our Print a Standard packs. We created a Print a Standard pack for each Common Core standard for ELA and Math. These packs give teachers multiple opportunities to practice and assess the standard they are teaching.
When did you realize you wanted to become a teacher?
We have both been teaching for about 15 years. We both had a love of working with young children early on, starting with babysitting, where we’d plan and prepare special crafts to do with the kiddos. We’re both naturally drawn to working in primary education, enjoying the rewards of fostering young kiddos to become strong readers, independent and curious learners, and well rounded students!
How did your background prepare you for your current roles - as educators and now business women?
Teaching at multiple schools and holding various roles in education have prepared and encouraged us to enter our current roles as bloggers and curriculum designers. Having additional experiences as tutors, literacy/instructional coaches, and curriculum planning gave us the opportunity to collaborate with many parents and educators. These collaborations and roles of leadership have given us a glimpse into different facets of education and have helped us strengthen our teaching. It also helped us create a successful business in education.
What’s your most memorable moment as a teacher?
One of our best moments was when we created and planned our own version of Student Led Conferences. At the end of the school year, we planned a special night, A Learning Celebration, for students to lead their parents through their learning. We worked with the kids to gather and make examples of their learning and taught them how to present the information. We saw so many proud families!
Since the school year as just started, what’s the best way a parent and teacher can prepare their 1st grader for a successful year?
To prepare a 1st grader, the number one way to support them is to read! Read with them, read to them, read together! Reading is a HUGE part of first grade. Any practice they can get with reading sight words and text will give them a big jump. The other key is talking with your children about the text they read (or listen to). Ask them questions about what is happening in the book.
What advice would you give to other women who are looking to start a profession in education?
Keep student success at the heart of your work! Education comes with many demands and changes over time. We’ve found rooting for ourselves in our classroom, kiddos - fueling their curiosity, focusing on their learning, sharing in their successes, nurturing their needs, encouraging their collaboration, and fostering their independence - has always helped us rise above the stresses that come along in education.
What’s next for you? What does the future of the First Grade Buddies look like?
We started to create and share webinars for teachers and they have been a big hit. In our webinars, we are able to show teaching strategies through video vs. a blog post. Participants can interact with us during the webinars to ask questions and tell about their experiences. We hope to produce more of these to continue sharing with other educators.
More about Tamra and Sarah:
What’s your favorite memory from first grade?
Tamra - I remember starting to feel like a confident reader. This was a great feeling, starting to read things on my own.
Sarah- Not a favorite memory, but it is a proud and encouraging memory….in my primary grades, I had to attend a reading intervention class. Now I have a Master’s degree in reading education, have been a literacy coach, and create curriculum and teaching resources for reading. Early intervention is so important!
Favorite Fall Activity
We did an Apple Tasting Day where we had multiple apple flavored products and students tasted them and told what they thought. It is neat to see what they think about foods that they might never have had.
If you could live in any book, what would it be and why?
We both find the Junie B. Jones series to be pretty comical; probably since we have taught first graders so long and can relate to how the kids act and how the teachers feel. :)
Learn more about First Grade Buddies, via their website: http://www.firstgradebuddies.com/