Kim Malley is asked about her approach to teaching third graders.
“I don’t know what it is!” she laughs.
Whether she can easily define her teaching style or not, she must be doing something right, as the Odenton Elementary School teacher was recently among 52 nominees to be Teacher of the Year in Anne Arundel County.
“I was surprised, and I was humbled,” she said in a recent interview at the school. “I don’t do it for the acknowledgement.”
Malley is modest, refusing to discuss her teaching success without also giving a nod to her fellow third grade teachers, Caitlin Carr and Brian LeCompte, and the Odenton Elementary community.
“I love my third grade team,” she said. “I like the families. I’ve built a reputation with the families and the children. They all know me.”
Malley has been teaching for 28 years, with the last 20 in Odenton. She is a Rhode Island native, and is courageous enough to display a New England Patriots pennant alongside one of the Baltimore Ravens in her classroom.
She has seen the challenges of teaching evolve, but said she has always kept her focus on building relationships with students and pushing them to do well.
“I like to do a hands-on approach with the children," she said. "And I think I have a sense of humor that I use with the children, and they get me, and I can hook them in. Because we only have our hands with the children here at school, you have to have those relationships with children.”
Malley’s workday hardly ends when the bell rings. She’s spearheaded a successful school beautification program and has been involved in a campaign to earn Green School certification. Soon, she'll help organize an Earth Day celebration.
“We do a lot of activities ... when it gets warmer we’ll have the garden club," she said. "It’s those little things that allow you to build those relationships.”
Malley’s fellow third-grade teachers said they admire her knack for connecting with students and getting the most out of their abilities.
“She wants her kids to succeed so much,” Carr said. “When they go off and do their assignments or activities, she’s taught them so well there’s no question they know exactly what to do. When you see their finished product and what they can do, you know it’s because they’ve had Mrs. Malley.”