• How do you best inspire students (in and out of the classroom) to learn and achieve?
My desire is to teach in such a way that people are proud to say that they had me as a teacher, who made them work hard, convinced them that learning can be enjoyable, and took pride in the accomplishments they attained under my guidance.
My students have a great deal of fun in my class and with this, I have very high expectations for them. I am known for being active and often right-brained in my teaching style. Students might find themselves in a live game show as they learn about punctuation. Or, they could find themselves using the latest technologies to research and present on a topic of their own choosing. To enhance their learning of multiplication facts, they might do a funny dance. To encourage writing and help them learn about the scientific process, they might be involved in designing a new soft drink or ice cream.
Because learning is most powerful when connected to an emotional event, I work hard to find ways to creatively present information to students. I will often dress in a costume and pretend that I am an expert in a subject. For example, I have been able to get most third graders in my class to understand how to split sentences into subject/predicate by dressing up as a karate master and CHOP sentences in half. It is a powerful and fun way to get this tough subject across to my learners.
Additionally, I have developed a two to three day outdoor camp that all of the third graders in my school attend in the spring. While there, we focus our learning on environmental issues, team building, and experiencing Alaskan wonders in new ways.
But having fun in school does not mean that my classroom is lax in structure. In fact, there is a lot of day-to-day structure when I teach. It is all designed to give students an environment that cultivates maximum learning.
An environment of respect is fostered in my classroom. Students are counted upon to show respect for themselves and for other students. In turn, I cherish the relationships I build with each student and always strive to model respect to each of them. Building a strong community in the classroom and the school is paramount to a student feeling good about their learning and finding joy in their schooling.
Of course, no teacher can claim to be the single driving force in a student’s success. Teachers need to be collaborative in nature. Not only does this benefit the students but it profits the school and makes for an enjoyable learning atmosphere. I love to share and learn with other educators. Together we help each other grow and push each other towards excellence in education.
• Briefly describe your academic background and achievements.
I received my BA in Elementary Education is 1995 from Harding University and obtained my M.Ed. in Education from UAS in 1998.From 2003 - 2005, I took a sabbatical and taught computer classes in a private school in Caracas, Venezuela. The cultural and educational experience has shaped my views in many areas, including global understanding and distance education.
Over the years, I have actively sought ways to develop my skills in teaching by taking many class, by teaching English overseas (Romania and Hungary) during the summers, and mentoring people who wish to enter education. I have also written and received funding for several mini-grants that help fund classroom literacy and technology projects.
I have been on a variety of boards and committees focused on promoting technology and literacy. I have been the webmaster for several schools. Currently I am on our school’s leadership team and help make important decisions about staff development and school-based issues.
• Please describe any community efforts you are involved in (outside of the classroom)
The main community project I have been involved with in recent years has been to run a summer-time, one-week science camp for elementary students. This camp is a partnership between the Juneau School District and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. While Camp Invention is run in 1,500 locations nationally, I represent and direct the local camp. Based on STEM and inquiry based learning, this program enriches the science learning of over 100 local children. I am in charge of promotion, hiring, staff supervision, and all aspects of camp management. It is a lot of work but it promotes science in our community beyond what our schools provide.
Additionally, I am often tapped to give presentations and trainings on technology education and trainings in and out of the school district. For example, this spring, I have been invited to give training to Alaskans at the AEYC conference in Juneau. For many years, before budget cuts impacted it, I taught technology classes for the MAT program at UAS.
I am also an active member of my church.