Kathleen Bohrnsen, a public school veteran teacher of 19 years, is Gulfport Elementary Schools’ 2021 Teacher of the Year, and she’s not afraid to go off track. A first grade teacher with a sing-song voice and an undeniable teacher croon, Bohrnsen has two master’s degrees in social psychology and brain-based teaching with a concentration in reading literacy.
“I wanted to make a change; I felt teaching was something impactful and important,” Bohrnsen said. “You have the power to change the trajectory of a person’s life in a great way. How lucky am I to get to be a part of that?”
The Florida native went to school in Denver, Colorado and returned to her roots in Pinellas with fresh ideas and a brain-shaped plush coined “Dexter Dendrite.”
“Brain-based thinking and teaching are so connected,” Bohrnsen said. “At this age they are so bright and eager to learn.”
The Bohrnsen Method
Bohrnsen has only been at Gulfport Elementary for two school years and she’s adopted a standout way of promoting self confidence.
“We ‘sparkle up’ a friend. The kids pretend like they’re spraying a bottle of glitter on themselves or each other,” Bohrnsen said. “By pretending to be covered in glitter, they are covered in glitter.”
They’re connecting, without the [glitter] mess.
“These kids didn’t have a normal school year last year, and they didn’t have one the year before that. A lot of what we’re learning is faces, emotions and social skills,” Bohrnsen said.
Bohrnsen’s first grade class is known for bursting into fits of rollercoaster cheers throughout the school day, and it’s not without purpose.
“I saw a group of students doing a wonderful job of conflict resolution, so we did a cheer for that,” the Gulfport teacher said. “I highlight and love every mistake, that’s how you learn.”
Many of the unorthodox learning props – things like yoga balls for chairs and tubes of bubbles – are in Bohrnsen’s classroom because of the generosity of Pasadena Pet Motel. In Bohrnsen’s words, the doggy daycare adopted her class.
“The Pasadena Pet Motel purchased our focus chairs and some of our supplies … it’s such a tight-knit community here,” she said.
Despite the community donation, Gulfport Elementary needs uniforms – especially in the coming winter months.
“We really need more uniforms, and jackets as it gets colder,” Bohrnsen said. “It’s around this time of year that our supplies start to dwindle.”
Here’s how you can help.