When Karen Clement's combined first- and second-grade class at Terra Linda Elementary School sent journals to all 50 states asking for information about wetlands, they received some interesting artifacts.

One included a satchel of cattails that scattered when she opened the bag. Another contained a plastic bag filled with wood chips with a sticker saying they were 'created' by a beaver in Carnation, Wash.

The wetlands project is an example of how Clement, a Terra Linda teacher for 20 years, incorporates hands-on learning in her classroom.

Recently, she was named as only one of two winners of the 'Celebrate Literacy' Awards distributed by the Portland Reading Council. On Tuesday, Clement will attend the awards ceremony at Concordia University.

Terra Linda Principal Cheryl Ames said the council selection process included trying to find teachers who use current information in an effort to determine what works best for students when teaching them how to read and write.

Ames said she's pleased Clement received the honor, saying that both Clement and teaching partner Ruth Williams exemplify the quality of instructor at Terra Linda.

'When I think about the ideal primary teacher, I immediately think of Karen,' Ames wrote in her nominating letter. 'She understands the critical role of literacy development and structures her classroom and instruction to ensure that each student makes the most progress possible.'

Wetlands theme

At the 'Celebrate Literacy' event, Ames will present a slide show of Clement's work.

Although Clement has received other awards during the years, she said she's pleased with the literacy honor, saying she was 'totally surprised' to hear she was named a winner.

Clement said she's fortunate to work in a district where teachers are encouraged to try new things.

During the years she has discovered that students learn best when they are involved in hands-on projects.

The wetlands project is an example.

'My teaching partner and I have year-long themes,' said Clement, pointing out that 'Wading Through the Wetlands' has been popular with students this year.

Clement said she finds a special joy in teaching her first- and second-grade class.

'I just love having a multi-age classroom,' she said, noting that it gives the younger children exposure to a higher level of learning found in the older students.

Clement has had the benefit of lots of volunteers to help out in the classroom.

'Most days I have two to three parents in our classroom,' she said.

Three Sunset High School tutors volunteer their time as well.

What Clement likes to incorporate in students' daily reading are non-fiction books and stories.

She also uses integrated learning when teaching her class of 26.

'Reading, writing and social studies are never taught in isolation,' said Clement.

Helpful and caring

Students also like Clement's teaching style.

Second-grader, Tyler Loescher called Clement a nice teacher who can 'multi-task.'

'She gives us interesting (books) to read, too,' said Loescher.

As part of the wetlands project, students have to write a paper featuring an animal that can be found in a specific region.

Loescher said Clement encouraged students to select animals by discovering five facts about the creature that students find interesting.

Loescher's animal of choice is the cottonmouth snake.

Another second-grader, Patty Karafotias, said she enjoys being in Clements class as well.

'I've been in her class two years' said Karafotias. 'She's really helpful and caring.'

Karafotias said she likes the way Clement allows students to make choices on many classroom areas of study.

'She helps us like if we get frustrated,' she said.

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