As a child, I had a memory book for each grade level, and each year I was able to check off what I wanted to be when I grew up. Among actress and singer, teacher was always a box that received a check. I couldn't wait for the day I would be able to use a chalk holder as a teacher! I was very fortunate to have great teachers that inspired me, cared for me, and gave me leadership opportunities in all grade levels. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the educational world! In high school, I was able to volunteer in a Kindergarten class, as part of my National Honor Society service hour requirement. This solidified that my childhood dreams of being a teacher were still relevant, and I went right into Western Michigan University with a set plan!
I am now in my sixteenth year as an elementary educator, and I am still confident in my career choice! I was able to look back and reflect on my experiences by looking through my teaching portfolio. The things that I thought were important as an undergrad are still the things I think are important, which makes me very proud that I have stayed true to the ideals I had set for myself as a young adult. Of course I have evolved, yet my value system remains. I value creativity, classroom community building and risk taking, technology, and the integration of the arts into curriculum. The contributions I have made to education and the impacts that I have had all fall within these themes.
Creativity is the heart of my teaching! I strive to give students opportunities to express their learning through their creativity, as well as give students the opportunities to develop their creativity. My greatest contribution through the years has been managing Destination Imagination, an after school creative problem solving program. I have been involved for 15 years, and I have worked with over 400 students developing their skills in collaboration, creativity, problem solving, STEM, and the arts! I have taken many teams to the state competition, and I was blessed to join a team at Globals! I received an email from one of my former students, and this is how she closed it: “I believe that learning to think critically and creatively in DI set us up for a lifelong love of learning and the skills that accompany it that will get us far in life. The creative and challenging environment you provided for me as a student and DI participant affected me in ways that will stick with me forever.” I hear things like this often from past Destination Imagination members, and it is what drives me to continue offering this program to others. This year I have even extended my love for creativity to a pilot program I am doing for the Imagination Foundation. I am facilitating an after school program at Hornung Elementary (the school that my own children attend) to promote creative play on a weekly basis. The Hornung Imagination Chapter has been a wonderful addition to my life, and I am looking forward to helping the program grow and grow throughout the years! Creativity is at my core and it makes me #LoveTeaching!
As a teacher who is passionate about technology, I am constantly evolving the set of tools I use in the classroom (something that has been even more fun than getting to use a chalk holder!) Some of my highlights include being the first Edmodo user in my district. Edmodo is a social learning platform often called a Facebook for classrooms. This led to a leadership role in launching it out to the rest of our district. In addition to helping teachers in my district with Edmodo, I have also led sessions around Michigan and the United States to help educators integrate Edmodo into their classroom. In recent years, I have become a leader for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) with elementary children, which was highlighted in the educational documentary, Look I’m Learning. I have allowed my students to bring their devices for the last few years, and I now see other classrooms adopting this as well. I know I have made a difference with my students’ use of technology, and it is wonderful to see other teachers open up to it as well.
This week in particular was a great week letting me see that kids love my teaching. Yesterday I received a handmade sign from a student that embodied my motto for life...Live, Laugh, Love! She did this just because...something that I am lucky enough to get very often. Third grade students tend to have an enormous unconditional love!
Another awesome thing that I got in the mail yesterday was an invitation to the Walled Lake Northern Musical, Cinderella...complete with a personal note from a former student. She reflected on the shy, self-conscious student she was back in third grade, and she expressed that she had grown by leaps and bounds in the personality department since...even giving me credit, as I pushed her out of her cozy, little shell. She is now playing the part of a sassy step-sister, and I am looking forward to seeing her shine on stage!
What I love most about my job is building the social intelligence of my students. I know that I have made a difference when I can help students find and celebrate the gifts they have inside! It makes me #LoveTeaching!
I went into teaching because of the wonderful teachers that I was blessed to have in my life, and I believe I am making the same type of difference in the lives of my students. Through creativity, technology, and the arts, I have been able to impact and inspire, and I know that my greatest contributions to the world of education are tucked away in each and every student’s heart and mind!