Missouri State University

Jessica Ridder

  • 1st grade teacher, Sherwood Elementary
  • Springfield, Mo.
  • BSEd, early childhood education, 2015
  • MS, early childhood and family development, 2018

Teaching with teamwork

Jessica Ridder's 1st grade class is all about working together. 

It’s not just a classroom. It’s a learning lab.

The students don’t learn from just one teacher. They learn from two – often at the same time.

Jessica Ridder’s emerged in a growing education trend: co-teaching.

Ridder shares her 1st grade classroom – known as a “learning park” – at Sherwood Elementary with fellow MSU alumna Laura Snelson.

They teach the class together.

Sherwood was the first co-teaching school in Springfield.

“Being a co-teacher, you have to be able to work with another person,” Ridder said. “It’s not a competition… Working here, I’ve learned so much more about how to work as a team.”

Ridder and Snelson first developed their co-teaching style at Sequiota Elementary, then came over to Sherwood together.

What does co-teaching look like?

Jessica Ridder co-teaching class with Laura Snelson

Ridder and Snelson have different ways to co-teach their students.   

As Ridder explained:

  • Team teaching: “You can teach together in front of the room to all students, which is what we do quite a bit.”
  • Alternative teaching: “You can have one teacher in the front – leading the classroom – while the other is working with a small group to modify the lesson for them.”
  • Station teaching: “You split up the class and teach (different parts of the lesson).”

The most important part of co-teaching? Using teamwork to come up with the best way to teach your students.  

“(Co-teaching) personalizes the learning a lot more,” Ridder said.

'Meant to be for my future'

Jessica Ridder teaching students about nutrition and food groups.

Ridder’s always liked teaching kids how to do things.

She worked as a lifeguard in high school. She coached gymnastics in college.

“So, I had worked with little kids,” Ridder said. “I knew that I really enjoyed working with them.”

The early childhood education program at Missouri State – a school she heard good things about from many of her friends – was a natural fit.

 “From the moment I started my classes (at MSU), I felt like it was… meant to be for my future,” Ridder said. “I really enjoyed the classes I was taking and the professors I had. It just felt right.”

Ridder finished her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and began teaching full-time.

She then earned a master’s degree in early childhood and family development. Her master’s degree could help her one day pursue an administrative role in education.

The learning outweighed the hectic schedule.

 “I would go home (from teaching) and (study) pretty late into the night,” she said. “I felt like I was learning so much that it was worth it.”