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 Kami Mecham. Kami has been teaching for twelve years, eight of those years were teaching 3rd grade, three years teaching 4th grade, and now she is in her second year of 2nd grade!
Kami also has a job as an instructional coach. She loves that she not only teaches full time, but is able to interact with other teachers as a mentor and coach. Another exciting thing about Kami is that she did her student teaching in Washington D.C. After her student teaching, she came back to Utah to start her career as a teacher and instructional coach.
What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?
“Although it sounds cheesy, my favorite thing about teaching elementary school is the kids: the girl who wears her new dress on picture day and twirls as she walks in the classroom; the boy who has a “lucky hat” that he says helps him do his best reading; the students who cheer each other on when the math problems are hard. The students make me excited to get up each morning and I feel lucky to play a small role in helping them reach their potential!”
What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom?
“Technology is a great engagement tool in the classroom. My favorite way to use technology is to provide experiences that will engage students in the curriculum and encourage an excitement for the learning. I believe that even young students can learn to use technology productively and can benefit from its use. Some specific ways I engage students with technology include QR codes, apps to record the students reading, guided research experiences, and games that provide real-time data.”
If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?
“Choosing just one children’s book to recommend is definitely a challenge but I absolutely love The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. The character of Edward Tulane has been a favorite with my students as he discovers his ability to love. Using this book to spark conversations of love, friendship, acceptance, and understanding in my classroom has provided some of the most authentic discussions I have had with my students and has served as a foundation of building unity within the classroom.”
What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching?
“Looking back on my first year of teaching, I wish someone would have told me that it is ok to have fun and enjoy the small moments. Teaching is hard. Teaching is exhausting. Teaching can be overwhelming. With all of that, I wish someone would have helped me see that I could put in the hard work to be an effective teacher while also having fun with my students. While it is important to do the hard work and it is normal to feel overwhelmed, I have since learned I am a better teacher when I take a step back, have fun, and enjoy my job. I would have loved for someone to tell me I didn’t have to have a “perfect” classroom year one (or any year really) in order to make a positive impact for my students. Teaching is hard but teaching is also exciting, fun, and rewarding!”
Who influenced you most to choose a career education?
“There wasn’t just one person or one moment that inspired me to pursue a career in education. I always wanted to be a teacher, although my reasons have changed over the years. I attribute this desire to the amazing examples of great teachers I had in my life. Mrs. Stratton, my third grade teacher, who gave each student a nickname and affectionately called me “Camerilla” for many years even after I left her classroom. Mrs. Ivie, my second grade teacher, who had the most amazing stuffed dinosaurs we got to hold while we were reading. Mrs. Gamble, my fourth grade teacher, who brought the Oregon trail unit to life. All of these teachers, and many more, showed me what an educator can be and made me want to be part of something bigger. Their positive influence continues to inspire me today.”
What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with other teachers?
“Collaboration opens doors. When professionals come together with a common purpose, the possibilities are endless. One of my favorite things is being part of a collaborative brainstorming session where a team meets together with a question, problem, or goal to tackle. I love watching different team members bring their own perspective, building on each other, and creating an end result that is more effective than anyone imagined at the beginning. Successful collaboration allows for each member of a team to add their individual strengths to a larger whole.”
“I am lucky to get to participate in collaboration as a teacher and as an instructional coach and I have seen the process increase instructional effectiveness, improve student outcomes, and build school or classroom culture many times. I especially love collaborating about engagement strategies, room transformations, and ways we can create an exciting and welcoming environment for our students.”
How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it?
“Classroom meetings are a big way I use student voice in my classroom. We have class leaders who lead our meetings as we discuss things that are going awesome and other things that we can improve on. This is a safe opportunity for students to voice concerns and also help come up with solutions.”
“Collecting and responding to student questions is another way I use student voice. As students ask questions throughout our units, I use those questions to drive my instruction and guide our lessons to those things my students are interested in and ready for, while also covering the required curriculum and standards.”
What has been one of your favorite teaching moments so far?
“There are so many! One moment near the top of the favorite list was when a student, who had spent the first half of the school year telling me he couldn’t read, came to school one morning with a book in hand and asked if he could read it to the class. That moment really summed up why I do what I do: help my students realize their potential, help them build their confidence, and provide them with the skills to then leave my classroom and tackle the world.”
What is a favorite unit you teach with your students?
“When I think of some of my favorite units that I have taught, a particular third grade math unit stands out. This also happens to be one of my favorite examples of the power of collaboration. As a team, we knew we had a unit coming up on two-step word problems. This is a challenging unit and tends to be daunting to both students and teachers. Because of this, the third grade team decided we wanted to take a fresh, engaging approach to the unit. We brainstormed together, worked through a lot of ideas, and eventually came up with an idea even better than we had anticipated at the beginning. We decided to teach this unit with the theme of “magic.””
“We approached the two-step word problems with the twist of taking steps in magic tricks and our students became “mathmagicians.” Along with that we tied the magic theme into other areas with books and writing activities. An otherwise boring, daunting unit became fun and successful. My students thrived and their assessment scores reflected that. Not only did I get to dress up like a magician, but I also saw my students’ confidence grow throughout the process.”
Thank you for your insight Kami! I especially loved what she said about collaboration and how it opens doors when you work together! I agree wholeheartedly, and this is why I started Feature Friday! To spread the knowledge of teachers worldwide!