Student-Centered Learning

Kelly Ronson is a compassionate, passionate and devoted 5th grade teacher at Stoneleigh Elementary School in Baltimore County. She looks at learning in a unique way, giving each child the opportunity to choose what works best for them in the classroom. MPT reached out to Kelly to capture some of the magic and motivation behind her teaching.



Classroom fidgets help decrease stress and improve focus.

Kelly creates an atmosphere of inspiration, creativity and comfort, a learning environment where possibilities are endless and students feel safe to explore.

“Students often choose how they want to demonstrate what they have learned. Assessments are no longer only a worksheet handed out at the end of a lesson. Students give presentations, make models, and engage in group discussions to demonstrate mastery of new skills,” said Kelly.

In whatever way suits them best, Kelly’s students can choose where and how they work. They can also choose where to sit in the classroom. That means everything from working at a traditional desk or balancing on a yoga ball, to working at a stand-up desk.

When students feel antsy in class or can’t sit still, they have options. An assortment of “fidgets” is always available to students that are looking for a way to keep their fingers busy, minds focused, and bodies relaxed.


Children are the focal point in Kelly’s classroom, working in tandem to help direct their own learning.


Students research the benefits of mindfulness in Kelly’s 5th grade class.

Evidence of Kelly’s student-centered classroom can be seen on any given day. During a recent project, students were researching the topic of “mindfulness” to see if they wanted to incorporate this practice into their classroom. To provide students with deeper knowledge, Kelly invited a clinical psychologist to participate in the classroom conversation. Her students then used this information, coupled with their own research, to make informed decisions in favor or against introducing mindful learning in class.

A 5th grade parent wrote to MPT to share her appreciation for Kelly’s teaching style and dedication to bringing out the best in all students.

“Mrs. Ronson creates an environment that fosters confidence, one in which children feel capable and free to contribute in a true community of learners.”



Cuddled-up with tea and blankets, students embark on reading adventures.

Kelly makes a point to get to know all of her students on a personal level. She hosts “lunch bunches” in her classroom, a safe space where she can listen to each child, have open discussions, and get to know them as children and not just students. Focusing on the individual strengths, interests and abilities of each child, Kelly meets children where they are, without judgment.

On a chilly day in November, Kelly’s students brought in blankets and hunkered down to finish the class's current novel. Upping the comfort level one step further, children were served tea, then sipped and snuggled-up with a good book.



Parents attend American Education Week activities.

For Kelly, parents are a key part of their children’s learning experience and she goes out of her way to include them in their child’s progress, projects and activities. For instance, during American Education Week, parents were invited to Kelly’s classroom to attend student-led presentations.

“I often send pictures to parents or caregivers showing what we are doing in the classroom. The pictures are a great way to make a school-home connection. The pictures help guide discussions at home and can help avoid the often typical conversation.” said Kelly.

Her unique approach is having a positive effect on parents, two of which shared their thoughts with MPT.

“Mrs. Ronson sees every student as an individual, with unique talents and needs. She has created an atmosphere that is safe and nurturing which frees students to grow beyond expectations. Her (almost) daily updates with photos give me a window into the classroom. Her love of learning is contagious."
- Jennifer Pleszkoch

“Mrs. Ronson is great about involving parents and letting us know what is happening in her student-centered classroom. She sends email updates and photos of our children hard at work. Allowing the students to have choices enables all types of learners to succeed. My daughter Reilly is extremely creative and Mrs. Ronson's class fosters her creativity instead of being restricted by the traditional classroom setting. She loves the classroom because it gives her freedom and choice.”
-Trista DiPaula


Kelly represents teaching at its best, providing a nurturing and flexible learning space to help all students succeed. We all could learn something valuable from her teaching, and hope that her story encourages other educators and parents to reach for the stars.