Friday, March 22, 2013

*STAR* Teachers--Evelyn Webster & Tracie Koopman

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teachers are...

Tracie Koopman & Evelyn Webster
Team Teachers
5th Grade & RTI

How many years have you been teaching?

Evelyn- 33
Tracie-  23

What is your best memory?

Evelyn-  Some of my best memories are spending a day at our cabin with my students at the end of every year.  Along with swimming, students have an opportunity to ride in a boat, sail, and go tubing- and these experiences are often new ones for many of the kids.  It’s always a highlight of the year and a wonderful time for us to just be ourselves before the students leave elementary school!  At the end of the day, no one wants to leave.

Tracie-  Some of my best memories involve student writing.  Although I don’t directly teach writing here at Norman- it’s in my blood!  I love seeing how students can use writing to connect what they are learning about to their life experiences.  I am amazed at students’ creativity. 
*Both of us also have favorite memories of students who return long after they have been in our class to tell us about what they remember learning and how we have influenced them in ways we didn’t realize.  What can be better than that?

What is the funniest memory?

*We both think that funny things happen every day.  We like what we do and our students make us laugh all the time.
Evelyn-  I remember one time that I handed out science books and asked students to read from the text.  One student kept telling me that he couldn’t read the book.  After encouraging him several times to just try, I noticed he had a Spanish textbook and he was not Spanish speaking!  
When he said he couldn’t read it- he wasn’t joking! J

Tracie-  I remember a time when I was teaching middle school and I heard someone’s beeper go off.  I told the students that I didn’t know who had the electronic device that was making the noise, but I didn’t want to hear the sound again as we had lots of work to get done.  After hearing it a few more times and feeling myself starting to lose my patience, my students and I realized it was a little bird making beeping noises outside our classroom window.  We all had a good laugh! 

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
Evelyn-  I think Reading/Writing Workshop is a best practice.  The best thing about Reading/Writing Workshop is it gives students choices when it comes to reading and writing.  They have more of an opportunity to read and write about what matters to them rather than if it were all teacher directed.  
Choice = love of reading and writing!

Tracie-  I think best practice is writing across the curriculum.  Students should be writing in all subjects, not just during writing!  I think when students write about what they are learning, they form a deeper connection to the topic.  Instead of just reading about what slavery was like in America, students can write from the perspective of an African slave.  Instead of learning a new math concept, students can write about the procedure and explain the process.  
Best practice:  write, write, write!

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?

Evelyn-  I feel it is very important to build students’ number sense.  The way to do that is by doing lots of hands on activities, which allow students to explore the concepts before jumping to the abstract.

Tracie- I think a best practice is to have students keep math journals.  This is a place for students to take notes about the current topics, draw pictures to show math ideas, explain their understanding, and summarize their learning. 

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Evelyn-  Teaching is a great job because it keeps you young.  Through your students you will find out the latest and greatest, from books to movies to electronics.  In addition to learning from your students each day, I think it’s very important for new teachers to find a great mentor teacher, one they can lean on and trust.  Finding a teacher like that will make you a better teacher and make the learning process a lot more enjoyable!

Tracie-  My advice is just to enjoy your students each and every day.  Sometimes we get so caught up in curriculum and where we need to be by when, that we feel that we don’t have the time to stop and have that conversation with the student who really wants to tell us something or play the game that makes students laugh.  All that “curriculum stuff” is obviously important, but what’s most important is connecting with your students and making them feel valued.

Finally, we both think that it’s very important to read aloud a great poem or from an exceptional book every single day!  This broadens students’ perspective of the world!

Other:  We think this is one of the best jobs in the world!  What other job do you have where you can start fresh every year and laugh every single day?  Even though there are many other jobs out there, neither one of us can imagine doing anything different!

Pictures from their classroom

Evelyn & Tracie-
I love the way you two work together as a TEAM. You both always wear a smile and have a great attitude regardless if you're running to the other end of the building to "push-in" to kindergarten rooms, leading a small   
1st grade reading group or working with your 5th graders.
Thanks so much for sharing your strategies, advice and classroom.


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