Feature Friday: Haley Trauntvein

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Haley Trauntvein, a 4th-grade teacher in the small town of Tremonton, Utah. Haley loves teaching 4th-grade because she loves seeing how independent the students are becoming at this age and it’s fun for her to see them develop their personalities and sense of humor. Haley received her teaching degree from Utah State University. Go Aggies! 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“Growing up, my father was a high school teacher, and one of my closest aunts was an elementary teacher, so it was always on my mind, but what really got me into it was when I actually did my high school senior project of tutoring in a middle school math class. This class was specifically for eighth-grade students who tested well below the benchmark, to the point where they were on a second or third-grade level. Over the semester, I went in every morning and provided one-on-one tutoring and small group lessons with the supervision of an awesome teacher. After that semester, my life was changed forever. I let myself get scared out of it for a while and tried out my hand in cosmetology, which I still love a lot. Once I moved to Logan, Utah a few years later, I became a teacher’s aide in a third-grade classroom, I finally got myself to start taking classes, and now I’ve been graduated for a little over a year, and still loving it.” 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“My school purchased iPads for all the teachers this year, as well as software to project the screen up onto the smartboard. Being able to have students interact with it has been so much fun. I also love the mobility of the iPad. Being tied down to standing at the document camera makes it really hard to reach your more challenging students, so having the ability to walk around and be right with them has been amazing.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“One of my favorite ways that we have integrated art into the curriculum was by doing character sketches of the book Holes. Groups of students were assigned to work together to sketch what the character might look like and to use their personality and other character traits to fill in the background. I definitely had some kids take more artistic license with their characters… but it was still very fun and whenever we pass their posters out in the hall, they beam with pride.”

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If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“I honestly love the book Holes, maybe it’s because I got to read it when I was a kid myself and loved it then, but being able to teach about it and get my students to really think about the overarching theme of luck, destiny, and chance, has been so fun and each student has had such unique perspectives to contribute to the discussion.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“It’s probably not the healthiest, but after a hard day, I reward myself by going to the local soda shop (shoutout to Soda Fixx!) and get a pop and one (or two) of their delectable stuffed rice crispy treats to eat on my commute home. If that doesn’t work, I call my dad and make him listen to my complaints.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education?

“All of the kids I’ve been so lucky to meet and teach are my biggest inspirations. At one of the schools I worked at, I was shown Rita Pierson’s TEDTalk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” and I really took that to heart. I get so much from these kids, and they deserve to have someone looking out for them and their needs. I’m not calling myself a “champion” by any means, but I’ll fight for these kids’ rights any day.”


Thanks, Haley for the great tips and insight you had for us today. I think we all should consider a soda after a hard day of teaching, we deserve it! Come back next week for our next Feature Friday where we are privileged to hear from Kim Anderson, an educator, and administrator. 

Other Activities To Do Instead Of Explicitly Teach Letters

I’ve written a lot lately about teaching my daughter preschool. 

Read about my initial thoughts here. 

Read about the curriculum I’m using here. 

Read about a few things I’ve learned in the process here. 

While it’s easy to focus on learning letters during this age of a child’s life, it’s not the end goal. Here’s what I wrote: 

“Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most important- to play.”

Today I wanted to make a list of activities to do with your kids beside teach letters (that can still promote letter awareness and learning). 

Paint. We are BIG advocates for paint over here at our house! Super washable Crayola paint is our go-to. Paint on paper, paint on windows, paint in the bathtub, paint outside. PAINT! Paint flowers, letters, silly faces, rainbows, animals, numbers, and more. 

Other artistic outlets such as coloring, cutting and gluing, paper folding, etc. 

Sensory bin activities with different fillers. I’d list them all out for you, but I’ve already made a post for that!

Play outside. Discover the world, and talk about it. Talk about the green grass, the blue sky. Wonder why dandelions grow in your yard but not the neighbors? (This was an actual conversation I had with my daughter. Maybe a sign that we need a little more weed killer??) 

Build with blocks, build forts, build with safe items from the pantry. Talk about bigger and smaller towers and the letters on the packaging or the colors you are using. 

The blocks featured are sumblocks

Go on a walk. Discover new places, see new people, and have different experiences outside of your home. 

Keep letters around your home to be involved in play.

I’ve said it multiple times in multiple posts, but never forget the fundamentals: 

  • Talk
  • Sing
  • Read
  • Write 
  • Play 

These five incredibly important points create readers. And not just a child that can read, but a child that loves to read. Let’s stop the pressure of children learning letters at a young age, and start creating reading lovers. 

A few more resources: 

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Tips On Activities With Young Learners

What Is Play-Based Learning?

“The whole world opened up to me when I learned to read”

Mary McCleod Bethune

What I’ve Learned Teaching Preschool

I’ve been teaching my daughter and her little neighbor friend preschool since mid-April. At first, it was very consistent and every day, but now we’ve tapered off since the world is (somewhat) opening up again and we can leave our homes again. We have been using Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum and love it! You can read more about my review here.

Today I want to share a few little nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from teaching on a preschool level. This age and curriculum are somewhat out of my realm, my dream teaching job would be 3rd-4th grade, but I’ve learned a lot teaching this age and learned to adapt to this different age range. 

More play. Less instruction. I knew this before, I live by the phrase “play is a child’s work.” However, sometimes when we put the label “teacher” out there, it’s easy to fall into teacher instruction mode. I found that the less I was involved and the more play that took place, the more learning that came. 

Sing. Sing all of the songs. I’m not a singer!! I know a lot of people say this, but I’m REALLY not a good singer. Guess what? They didn’t care. They just wanted songs. They craved the repetition and beat and learning a new tune. Sing the songs, and sing them loud and silly. 

Consistency is important for them at such a young age. We had our schedule that we did every day (laid out by Playing Preschool), and the days we strayed from it, left something out, or switched it up slightly, the whole lesson was hard for them. Be consistent. 

Not all kids grow up with a #teachermom and do activities like poke toothpicks in an apple, and that’s okay! Our cute neighbor boy that joins us for preschool was doing the apple poke activity. It promotes counting, spacial awareness, and fine motor skills. After he had put two or three toothpicks into the apple he looked at me and asked, “Why am I doing this?” while my daughter sat next to him happily poking her toothpicks because an activity like this is fairly normal in our household! Gave me a good laugh!

Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most importantly- to play. 

I think doing this preschool program with my daughter has opened my eyes to what playing for a child truly is. I knew it was important and I knew that’s how they can learn, however, now I realize that it’s not just how they CAN learn, it IS how they learn. It is crucial! 

To you preschool teachers out there, what other tips do you have, or what else can you add to this list? 

Feature Friday: Bobbie Murphy

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Bobbie Murphy, a sixth-grade teacher in Utah. Bobbie says that her favorite part of teaching sixth-grade is that “I can have a personality with them. I love that I can share the things I like, and I can relate to them in more realistic ways.” Here’s what Bobbie has for us today:

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“I love to use Digital Escape rooms, and I am super excited because I should be getting an Apple TV soon which will help me to not be tied to my cords to teach.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“I love to allow my students time to create using various supplies, or to plan activities where they can be creative like creating a shield during medieval times unit or to create something that would prevent an ice cream sandwich from melting.”

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“One of my most favorite books to read to my students is Out of my Mind. This book teaches students that they need to be more inclusive of others because the main character has a disability.”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

“I wish they would have told me how much I would grow to LOVE my students, and that I would be so incredibly exhausted for the first few weeks of school.”

What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with your team of teachers? 

“When we truly collaborate with each other our teaching becomes easier because we are working together for the good of our entire grade. We use each other’s ideas to help individual students and our students as a whole.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it? 

“In my classroom, students help create the rules of our classroom which always come back to my ONE rule, do not interfere with others learning. In the classroom, I have a jar that says, “What I wish my teacher knew…” Students can place a note in the jar any time they need to talk with me in a private way. Students find that they can have opinions about things and that I will listen/ read each one, privately and I will respond as appropriate to their concerns.  I feel that if students trust me with the little things they will trust me with the big things too!”


Thanks Bobbie for taking time to answer some questions for us! She had some great things to share with us on what it looks like to be an educator. Come back for our Feature Friday next week to hear from a 4th-grade Utah teacher! 

Let’s Grow With A Growth Mindset!

Have you heard of a growth mindset? Many schools are embracing and adopting this idea for their teachers and students to study and use in their work. What is a growth mindset? Why is it important? How can we use it to our advantage? 

There is research that our brains can and will grow. Our learning is not limited to our brain’s capacity, but to our drive and work, we put into the learning. Having a fixed mindset is thinking, “I am who I am. My personality, abilities, and intelligence cannot change because they were predetermined when I was born.” A growth mindset is saying “I can learn and change who I am and how I act if I am willing to put in the time and effort to grow, stretch, and learn.” 

Challenges, failures, and shortcomings are welcomed with open arms to those with a growth mindset because they view them as an opportunity to grow and learn. This infographic is one of my favorites to show the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. 

Carol Dweck Ph. D, who has researched the idea of a growth mindset and wrote a book on the idea states, 

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

So now that we know what is it, why is it important to us? Well, the obvious is for our students. Let’s teach them to have a growth mindset, let’s show them how they can positively affirm in their minds that they may not be able to do it… yet. But with work, they can. 

But let’s also remember ourselves. Wherever you are in the education field, not only are you educating students, but you’re educating yourself as well. You are constantly learning about new teaching methods, new education findings, information on your students, information about your school. The education never stops when you’re an educator yourself, so apply this to you! 

Maybe that ESL endorsement class is hard for you. The homework is overwhelming and time management isn’t in your favor. You can’t do it… yet. But you can do it if you try! 

I have told my daughter for as long as she could understand me, “We can do hard things!” and I’ve said it to her often, as well as had her repeat it back to me while she is attempting something difficult such as riding a bike for the first time. I recently changed our positive affirmation to give her a little more information and confidence. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can do hard things and I want her to remember that. But I also want her to know that “if I try” is just as important in repeating and saying to ourselves. We can try new things, we can do hard things if we try!”. 

How do you use a growth mindset in your classroom? What have you seen as an outcome of using a growth mindset not only for your students but for yourself? 

Quote and info-graphic from brainpickings.org

A Free EdTech Resource For The Classroom And Distance Learning: Virtual Field Trips

I originally planned to write about virtual field trips in late May after I went to the UCET conference in Provo, Utah. I was pumped up and ready to dive deep into virtual learning/ using technology in education! However, soon after the UCET conference, COVID took over our education systems, forcing us to use technology to learn, socialize, and even grocery shop. By late May, I couldn’t bring myself to write about one more technology use in the classroom because I was burnt out. And I’m not even teaching right now, so I cannot imagine how educators feel!! Instead of writing about my original plan of virtual field trips, my post on slowing down and remembering the simple, one-room schoolhouse came about instead. It felt more appropriate. 

Now that I’ve had a break from writing about the tech world for a little span on time, I feel more ready to write about my original idea. Here it is: virtual field trips.

Did you know virtual field trips were a thing? I did not! Don’t you (especially those social study teachers) wish you could put all of your students on an airplane each year and bring them to Alcatraz or the Eiffel Tower? While there are so many reasons this can’t work out, there is one simple way you can do this with your students. It’s simple. It really, truly is so simple and FREE. 

Do you have a computer? Good. Open Google Maps. Search your desired location. Turn on street view. You’re there. You did it. See, I told you it was simple!

Matt from Ditch That Textbook wrote about it here on his website that gives you a better rundown of exactly how to use it to its full potential. Or if you’re looking for an even easier route, he put links to 20 different field trips for you. All you have to do is click the link and you’re magically walking through Yellowstone National Park.

Matt was our keynote speaker at UCET and where I learned this new trick. His website is packed full of great educational tips and free resources, never once would he link us or send us down a path that costs money, he truly believes educational materials should be free and is doing a wonderful job at accomplishing this.

A screenshot from my computer during a virtual field trip. A cell in Alcatraz.

It may not have the same impact as walking the streets themselves, but I will attest to the fact that it’s more engaging than pictures in a textbook or on a computer. It’s different, it’s interactive, and it’s educational. 

Another screenshot from my Alcatraz field trip.
The White House

I invite you to play with these virtual field trips this summer while school is out so that when your students come back in the fall you can be ready to do this in the classroom with them, or send them home with the assignment to explore a new place during distant learning. When you’re done, come on back here and let me know how it went and share any tips you have for other teachers! 

Cover photo from pexels.com

#TeacherMom Struggles: What’s The Balance?

The other day I handed my 2.5-year-old scissors for the first time in her life. When handing them to her, I had a moment where I realized this was probably her first physical exposure with scissors herself instead of watching me use them, so I gave her a quick tutorial on how to hold them. 

Within minutes she was frustrated. She didn’t know how to cut the paper I had given her. I originally started her on this project so I could have a few minutes to cook dinner, so you can imagine my frustration when I had to go back over to show her, yet again!, how to hold and use the scissors. She worked diligently, and very, very slowly on cutting up a big sheet of construction paper into tiny pieces, struggling and asking for help the whole way. 

Once she had completed the construction paper, she moved on to the next task without consulting me first. The blanket. Luckily, we have some fairly dull kid scissors that won’t cut up the fabric so the blanket was saved, yet it still wasn’t okay. 

But it made me think that if I were teaching in a preschool, kinder, or first-grade classroom (maybe even older) and we pulled out scissors for the first time in a while, I would have an explicit lesson about what is okay to cut, scissor safety, and more. Yet with my daughter, I didn’t! A couple of thoughts I had about this situation-

  • Using scissors seems like such an every day, easy task to us who have used them for years and years. This is absolutely not the case with a toddler. 
  • Explicit instruction can do wonders. 
  • New activities such as using scissors aren’t for “from a distant” parenting. I should have chosen a safer activity I knew she could be successful and handle on her own. 
  • I try to turn off “teacher mode” often around her because while it’s valuable, I want to be play focused and not “coach” her too much throughout our day. But sometimes, teacher mode is okay and should come out. 

Mistakes were made! The first time a child picks up scissors they don’t need a quick tutorial, they need a sit-down, explicit lesson! I know that. I guess as a #teachermom, I expected myself to have a perfect balance of teacher mind and mom mind, and while it seems to work out some days, it doesn’t others. So here’s to me working hard at this balancing act of #teachermom life! 

You #teacherparents out there, do you struggle with finding a balance between being a parent and being a teacher to your kids?