What do you do to engage your students? What makes your classroom unique?
For me, engaging students starts with creating relationships. I try to get to know my students individually. When I express an interest in their lives, they see that I care not just about their learning but about them as human beings. This helps them "buy in" to me and to what I am teaching. Besides, the more I get to know about them, the more I can bring that into what I am teaching, which helps them relate and therefore stay interested.
Why do you think it's important to teach the way you do?
Not to sound melodramatic, but as I see it, connecting with other people is at the core of our survival, just behind basic needs. With the way of the world today, it seems like those connections are missing from many people's lives; we need to foster them here at school the best we can so students feel their importance early in life.
What do you feel is the most exciting thing about teaching?
I really love to see the growth from September to June. Yes, it's exciting to see the small leaps along the way too, but there is something about looking back to September, particularly in spelling and writing and seeing how far students have come.
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?
We do a lot of movement in science to act out things like the rain cycle, photosynthesis, etc. But the students really seem to love it when we "act out" the layers of the rain forest. It's hard to describe in writing, but they get to stand on our bench, lie on the floor, shout, get their picture taken, and we wrap it all up with an art project showing and describing the layers. They also come up with their own fun mnemonic to help them remember the layers.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I graduated from Scotia-Glenville High School and went to college at St. Michael's. My graduate degree is from Teachers College, and I've been teaching 17 years—16 of those at Glens Falls City School District. My favorite unit to teach is the Rain Forest.