What do you do to engage your students? What makes your classroom unique?
I try to mix things up, so that the students are not doing one thing for too long (such as just listening to me). As a teacher librarian, I incorporate a lot of technology into my lessons, and this proves to be very engaging to the students. One thing that is unique about my teaching is that I am very lucky to be able to co-teach with other teachers. Some of them are very funny - and the kids love the dialogue back and forth between us. I learn from each teacher with whom I teach.
Why do you think it's important to teach the way you do?
I think most teachers develop a sense of when they are losing the students' attention. That's why I feel it is important to have different parts to the lesson—different tasks or activities to keep them attentive. Also, once they are independently working on a project, it is easier to help them one-on-one. It is amazing what a difference this individual attention makes.
What do you feel is the most exciting thing about teaching?
One of most exciting things about teaching to me is witnessing the times research really becomes interesting to individual students—the moment when they take ownership of a research topic and dive in. This doesn't happen with every student, but when it does it is very rewarding! I also find it exciting when they respond to the real world connections that I try to make in my lessons.
What singular lesson plan, activity, assignment or experiment do you return to year after year because of its "spark" factor with you and/or your students?
One of my favorite lessons is during 6th grade science research on Catastrophic Events. For this lesson launch, I use a news video of a 10 year old girl who learned about tsunamis in science class. She realizes before ALL the adults around her that a tsunami is coming and is finally able to convince someone to listen to her. Her actions end up saving many lives at a resort in Sumatra during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It is a very compelling video. I think this lesson makes all of us (teachers and students alike) question whether we could make a difference like that based on something we learned in school.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I graduated from a high school in northern Ohio, which was a LONG way from where I grew up outside of Boston. I have been teaching for 7 years, all of those years at Glens Falls Middle School. My favorite unit to teach—that's a tough one because I love teaching research in all different subject areas (honestly). If I had to pick, though, it would be the 8th grade Holocaust research that I teach with Kate Arney. There are so many real world connections to events happening today and many connections to the young adult books the students read. This research project is the first time the students do research using all the pieces they will use in college research papers. We have had students come back from the high school and tell us, even though it was a lot of work, this was the most interesting research they had ever done.