Feature Friday: Kimberly Andersen

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 Kimberly Andersen. Kim has plenty of experience when it comes to education. Here is a rundown of everything she’s taught and for how long. 

“I have taught Kindergarten (1.5 years), 3rd grade (0.5 years), 2nd grade (4 years), 5th grade (2 years), Special Education – Both HS and ES Mild/Moderate and Severe (4 years), and I have been an administrator for 6 years.  I have done some of these things overlapping each other because of my unique experiences at my current school, so my total years as a licensed educator are 13 years.”

She has endorsements in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, Literacy, Special Education, and Administration.  She is also in the process of completing her Instructional Coaching endorsement. Here’s what Kimberly has for us today!  

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

“I think technology has a place in the classroom, especially when paired with intentional instruction.  I think young children should know how to use technology in a way that provides them with access and connection.  I especially like using a variety of resources for presentation models.”

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

“I absolutely adore children’s books so it is really difficult for me to choose only one.  Right now I love “The Snurtch” by Sean Ferrell because it provides an opportunity for conversations about empathy, disabilities, social-emotional learning, compassion, and self-regulation.”

How have books helped you in your teaching?

“Books are such an easy way to engage students in a narrative, a concept, or an experience.  I love using books as a way to provide access and expansion of ideas, but I also love using books as a way to help children connect with their feelings and the experiences of others near them.  When we connect ourselves with a good book, we find belonging.  I also believe that books help children understand how to talk about things that they might not know how to talk about otherwise.  A good book opens discussions and pathways for new thinking.”

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

“I wish someone would have told me that teaching is hard and that the difficulty I was facing was normal.  I would have loved validation that I was in the fight of my life doing the very best anyone could have done.  I would have loved for someone to validate the hours I was putting in, and the thought I was developing, and the difficulties I was facing.  I would have loved for someone to tell me that it was all going well and that I wasn’t causing any damage to my students through my own learning.”

How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught? 

“I have seen education change a lot over the last 13 years. I think the most poignant change for me has been the changes in how children engage in ideas and learning. I have seen a need to change the presentation of concepts in ways that tap into the vivid, quick engagement students are exposed to in their lives (TV, video games, tablets, phones, streaming, etc.).  There is a lot more exposure to instant gratification than when I first started teaching and so we have to not only incorporate some of those strategies, but also teach strategies for waiting, listening, self-regulating, slowing down, and being patient.”

What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with other teachers, both as a teacher and as an administrator? 

“Collaboration is such a key part of teaching effectively in this day and age.  I believe that two (or three, or four, or five…) heads are better than one in most cases, as a teacher and as an administrator.  One of my favorite ways to collaborate as an administrator is by planning and implementing room transformations with some of my teachers in their classrooms.  I get the opportunity to model strategies and concepts I teach about (engagement, rigor, effective planning, hands-on learning, inquiry), while also connecting with students through being in a classroom again, and regaining empathy for the work of being a teacher on the daily.  I have seen this create positive culture and climate in my building as well as increase the level of instructional effectiveness amongst my faculty.”

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

“I am a big believer in student committees, class meetings, and inquiry-based teaching.  I believe that when students have a voice and choice in their learning they are more engaged, retain more, and learn authentic methods for life-long learning.”

If you could give one tip to special education teachers, what would it be?

“You are not alone!  The most effective special education teachers work intentionally with other educators, community members, and parents to provide the best services for students. There are others who can help you and guide you, but you are also capable of more than you think you are!  You are a valuable part of a collaboration to help others know they are not alone in this work as well.”

What are your favorite resources that help you support your teachers as an administrator?

“I love Audible for learning about current educational ideas and practices.  I love to recommend that teachers spend time listening to books (that way they can multi-task!) when they want to grow or develop in new ideas.  I am constantly finding new books to listen to and new ideas to try from good books!”

“I also love to direct teachers to research-based sources that support new ideas.  I believe it is important to access valid educational research for creating intentional change in a school.  I use a lot of research from the ERIC database, What Works Clearinghouse, and Evidence for ESSA.”

Thank you Kimberly for your insight! Come back to Feature Friday next week to hear from Hannah Giles, an Idaho teacher. 

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