May 2018 Life Changer

May 2018 Life Changer: Catie Nelson Wagner

Hopkins preschools are a cornerstone of our District. Our high standard of excellence is due to many things, but perhaps the most important element is our world class teachers, and nobody embodies that caring spirit quite like Catie Nelson Wagner.

“Catie is an extremely gifted, knowledgable teacher who works tirelessly for the preschool children and families at Gatewood,” said Kathy Willett, Hopkins preschool supervisor. “She is a magnificent example of a dedicated staff member who has found her calling in working with young children.”

After moving back to Minnesota from Colorado, Wagner could not wait to become a member of the Hopkins Public Schools community. She started her Hopkins career as a Ready 4 K preschool teacher at Gatewood Elementary back in 2013.

One of her primary goals while teaching here in Hopkins is to create an inclusive space where everyone feels appreciated and valued within the classroom and beyond. She wants people to know that their voice matters. “Preschool in general is a fabulous age; the students have so much energy, curiosity, and great ideas. As a class, we spend a lot of time exploring these ideas and building on them,” Wagner said.

Background: After completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, science, and English from the University of Minnesota, Wagner moved to Colorado and obtained a master’s degree in early childhood education with a special education endorsement. She has since moved back home and has been a Hopkins preschool teacher for the last five years.

Is there an early childhood philosophy that stands out to you? When your child asks “Why is there a moon?” don’t reply with a scientific answer. Ask them “What do you think?” They will understand that you are telling them that they have their own mind and their own interpretation and that their ideas are important to you. Then you both can look for answers sharing the wonder, curiosity, and challenges.

Proudest moment? Often when I see former students, they seem to remember fondly what they did in preschool. They recall a specific activity, a song, a field trip, the room, or even a ball they found in the woods when we were on a nature walk. Hearing the children tell their stories of when they were in preschool to their friends or younger siblings is wonderful and creates a trusting space.

Stats:  Bachelor’s in psychology, science, and English from the University of Minnesota; master’s degree in early childhood education with a special education specialist license from the University of Colorado, Denver. Wagner has been working with students in schools for 11 years as a special education paraprofessional and most recently as a preschool teacher.