Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies
Bachelor of Journalism, University of Missouri
Master of Business Administration, Loyola University
Master of Arts in Teaching, National Louis University
14 Years at Elgin Academy
How would you summarize your teaching philosophy?
I firmly believe that my job is to prime the pump of students' curiosity, point them in the right direction, and get out of their way. However, getting out of the way doesn't mean leaving them alone; it means questioning, challenging assumptions, suggesting a different perspective, etc. As a writing teacher, I believe my job is to treat my students as the authors they are and to help them find their own voice. I do that by introducing choice as often as possible into the writing work we do and by encouraging risk-taking in their writing as I provide them with opportunities to write from their hearts.
How are you creating empowered and collaborative learners?
The process of writing itself is incredibly empowering, and we write a great deal in sixth and seventh grade. Developing as a writer is like development in so many other areas: some of our greatest growth comes from the everyday practice. When we work our writing muscles on a daily basis, we become powerful thinkers and writers. My experience is that in life, doors open for effective communicators. We're working on developing the skills that will open doors throughout our students' lives.
What new technologies have you introduced to your students?
Where do I begin! Technology is a natural part of our classroom. We use Google Sites as a place for students to create electronic writing portfolios. My hope is that like me, they will look back at their writing and appreciate their growth. All of the Google Apps for Education that we employ provide ideal conduits for the exchange of ideas, suggestions, and questions as writing and learning progresses. We also use technology as a way for students to be creative as they show what they know. Kids create interactive ebooks, documentary films, sock puppet videos, green screen videos, and more. Along the way, students find themselves digging deeper to make their creations shine. When we learn about things like the Silk Road in social studies, we don't just read about it. Instead, we take interactive journeys along it, trading as we go. (Tragically, sometimes our camels fall off cliffs. Life is hard on the Silk Road!) My goal with our use of technology in the classroom is to have it enhance and deepen student engagement and learning. If it doesn't pass that test, it doesn't pass into our learning environment.
What is your favorite Elgin Academy tradition?
Tough question. I love Trip Week. I brag about it to teaching colleagues from other school because I can think of no better way for kids to start the year. The bonding that happens among students and between students and their teachers can't be matched. And I can think of no better way for new students to join and be welcomed into the EA family than by doing things like participating in team-building activities, staying up late and laughing, and gathering around a campfire with new friends. Sometimes when we're at Lorado Taft with the sixth graders I will ask one of the Taft staff to try to figure out which kids are the new ones. I don't think they've ever been able to single out the newbies. What a great testament to the power of Trip Week!