BUILDING CONNECTIONS WITH YOUNG STUDENTS
Every morning, Logan Benfield’s second-grade students at East Gresham Elementary School give him a sign as they walk through the classroom door. These might include fist bumps, salutes and dance moves.
“It’s a great morning when students do random dance moves,” Benfield said. “I can also see how they’re doing based on what their demeanor is like.”
Shawnda Adams, who nominated Benfield as an Amazing Educator, praised him for consistently engaging students during the pandemic and the 2020 wildfires.
“He still made it the best year for my student and was the most fun,” Adams wrote in her nomination, adding that her son was always excited to go to school and see Benfield. “This year he is still going above and beyond.”
Before joining the Gresham Barlow team, Benfield taught English in Europe and worked as a substitute teacher.
“I was able to get many different perspectives (in Europe), from English language learners and different cultures,” he said. “As a substitute teacher, I was able to see different classrooms before I stepped into my own.”
Growing up, Benfield had foster siblings who inspired him to become a teacher.
“(Having foster siblings) taught me that the world is bigger than myself,” he said.
Since joining the team at East Gresham Elementary in 2020, Benfield has enjoyed teaching second grade.
“A lot of people say second grade is the best grade to teach, and I’m starting to see why,” he said. “A lot of independence happens. They ask more questions and get more analytical. There are a lot of ‘whys.’”
Along with answering their questions, Benfield also appreciates supporting students emotionally.
“I really love the opportunity to be what students need. They come in with different experiences,” he said, adding that he appreciates that students feel safe around him. “Students feel like they can share with me.”
One of his favorite parts of his day with students is circle time, where they discuss a variety of topics, including social emotional skills.
“We have mystery Mondays, where we focus on the mysteries of the universe, like where chocolate comes from and which animal has the biggest heart,” he said.
Teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 wildfires has been tumultuous at times, but Benfield has been focused on supporting his students throughout these changes.
“There’s a lot of hurt that even the students can see, but they don’t fully understand. As a classroom community, we talk about what’s going on and how we can help our community and our school,” he said, noting that this sometimes looks like sending notes of encouragement or visiting students in other classrooms.
Benfield has also been working with students on the pandemic’s impact on their academics.
“The pandemic was hard for families to juggle, and students come in at different levels,” he said.
He sometimes has students work with fellow student mentors.
“Higher level students can coach their peers. Sometimes they learn better when they’re working peer to peer,” he said
One of the most significant differences between hybrid and distance learning compared to having students regularly in the classroom again is that Benfield “can constantly check in on students.”
“Last year, we had to be more intentional about doing that,” he said. “There were students with their cameras off, and I would ask them to stay after class to chat. I would open the meeting room early and use breakout rooms as well.”
When his students move onto the third grade, Benfield hopes they have learned more about both empathy and critical thinking skills.
“Empathy is a huge factor in my life. I try to impress (empathy) on them in all that we do,” he said. “My goal is for them to be more aware of how others feel.”