Talking to Diane Knight about education is an exciting experience. She has recently been named the “Best of State” kindergarten teacher and exudes passion and love for her profession, but, more importantly, her students.
Knight graduated cum laude from BYU and taught preschool in her home for 18 years. When North Point Elementary opened in Lehi, she applied for a position and was hired.
“I think it is very important for students to understand that they are part of a ‘Classroom Community.’ Children need to learn they are accountable for the choices they make. I run a tight ship and help the students understand how they feel based on their choices. I want them to feel in charge of themselves.”
Knight emphasizes the need for parents to feel they are her friends. “I welcome parents in my classroom any time.”
Knight has a classroom mascot called the “Carson Courage”—a stuffed toy monkey. The mascot is in memory of a dear student, Carson Cheney. He was enrolled in Knight’s class when he was tragically killed by a tombstone that fell on him in a Park City Cemetery. In honor of Carson’s courageous attitude, students are reminded that all face trials and challenges. Carson loved Hot Wheels cars, so his mother started a movement called Carson Courage Cars. The Facebook page has become a worldwidephenomenon. Each year I introduce Carson with a short video provided by his dear parents, and we talk about what it means to have courage. A few weeks after the accident, on Carson’s 5thbirthday, his family chose the monkey in Carson’s honor, and it has a special place in my classroom. Students can quietly take the Carson Courage monkey to their seat for hugs and encouragement as needed,” said Knight.
“Rocket Readers” is a program developed by Knight to help students who struggle with reading. “I found that dividing these students into small groups can help them better, especially when my classroom numbers reach over 28 and I am given an aide. After eight years, I am happy with the results.”
When asked what some of her frustrations are, she responded quickly, “The classes are too large, and we are expected to teach kindergarten students in half a day what first graders are supposed to learn in a year of full-day instruction.”
“Many of us miss lunch periods and must complete 55 parent-teacher conferences in a short time. Class size is so critical,” Knight added. One of her biggest concerns is that foundational principles are being glossed over, and some students with unique needs are left behind.
Her final words were, “Anyone who knows me knows that my students are my forever friends. I refer to my students as my friends all year long, and towards the end of the year, we frequently talk about how we don’t need to be sad about leaving k
kindergarten because we are forever friends! The last day of school is very tender. I kneel on the floor and take each student’s face in my hands. I call each one by name, tell them I love them, and that we will be forever friends, forever and always. The room is silent as each student waits their turn. This has become one of my most cherished traditions. Each day in the hall, I see older students who are my forever friends, and we share that special connection. After school, many of them come to get a hug as I am waiting outside for dismissal. I now have hundreds, if not thousands, of forever friends and each one means the world to me. We are forever friends, which is the hallmark of my career.
Diane Knight is married to Alan Knight. They are the parents of five children, two of whom are educators.