Letting children lead 

Dayna Darby’s teaching method puts student learning into action.

July 06, 2009

Dayna Darby’s first-grade class had a simple question about the garbage in the cafeteria at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy: where does it go? That question led to a several-month recycling project that ultimately spread throughout the school last year.


During the 2008-09 school year, Talcott’s engineering staff has had difficulty finding appropriate space for the recycling containers and the program has been less successful, but Darby said, “there’s a teachable moment here, about how some things that might seem so easy can in fact become difficult.”


Those kinds of lessons led the Kohl McCormick Foundation to award Darby a Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award this year.


“I respect less what people say and more what they do,” Talcott principal Craig Benes said. “What Dayna does has inspired our whole school.”


Obviously, Darby’s dedication and innovation goes beyond the recycling project. Given that Talcott’s enrollment is primarily Spanish-speaking, with some parents not able to speak English at all, Darby has learned Spanish to be able to communicate better. She constantly works through the organization Donors Choose to get funding for projects, and has received 15 grants in less than two years.


Rather than parent-teacher conferences, Darby developed student-led conferences, where students take their parents through their portfolio of work to tell them what they’ve learned.


“I believe that children hold the key to learning,” Darby said. “My job is to help them find the correct door to place the key.”


Meet our other Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award winners:



Learn more about the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award.




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