Feature Friday: Faige Meller

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 Faige Meller. Faige is an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, CA. She started teaching preschool in 1977, and Kindergarten in 1991. In 2015, Faige retried and has substitute taught since. Faige is a seasoned teacher and is sharing just a tiny fragment of her knowledge with us today! Here’s what she has to say. 

What is your favorite part of teaching kindergarten? 

“I really feel this was the place I was meant to be! A grade that lends itself to play, exploration, and wonder. In this, we combined read aloud, math, literacy growth, science, movement, and play! I guess I said play again. Play drove so much of the learning. SEL always a focus. And of course those hugs.”

How do you incorporate the arts into core curriculum? 

“Our thematic units readily integrated the arts. We look at STEAM now and that has always been part of our curriculum. The language may have been different, but not the meaning.” 

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

“So difficult to focus on one book. There are so many beautiful, poignant books out there. Today I’d say Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson. This story continues to resonate, especially now! It leads to incredibly rich discussions, conversations, and reflections. “Why did this happen? What can we have done differently? Would you be an Upstander? And many times words and actions have no redos!”

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

“My first year of teaching was such a blur of worry. I was so worried about making mistakes. I wanted to be the best and make sure the kids, parents, and administrators liked me. I wish I was told to relax, enjoy the moment, watch, look, listen to the kids. Have fun, kids are resilient and so are you! And don’t volunteer for everything!” 

How have you seen education changed in your teaching experience? 

“There have been many changes. Some that supported my pedagogy and others that I questioned for this age group. But all changes were done with the thoughtful consideration to do what’s best for our students.” 

Wonder wall Kinders' wonders. We work on finding answers to our questions.

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

“Student voice was present on a daily basis, from “free choice” morning activities to opportunities for exploration during genius hour time and our Wonder Wall questions.

Kinders felt confident in sharing their wonders, finding ways to discover answers, and knowing their voice was important in our learning.” 

How is subbing different from being a teacher?

“As a substitute teacher, I knew I was there to support the teacher’s work with their students. I looked at it as an opportunity to learn alongside the students. The kinders knew me and that was a great inroad to establishing rapport and a relationship with the kinders.  And as I subbed in 1st, 2nd, and Toddlers, 3s and 4s my primary goal was to be there for the teachers (my school has a team teaching model) and students. A big difference was the accountability and responsibility basically on the other teacher‘s shoulders.  I was basically the helper, to be available for what the lead teacher needed from me.”

How is subbing the same as being a teacher?

“As a substitute teacher I did many read alouds, led Morning Meetings, did math activities, writing, and reading workshop. I followed the lesson plans left by the teacher but could use my discretion and expertise to modify the lessons. I did have autonomy as well. I collaborated with the teachers to create a program that met the student’s needs, that encouraged questioning, wonder, voice, and choice.”

What tips do you have for substitute teachers?

“Smile as you come into the room excited to be there. If you’re a substitute teacher you’re there because you’re valued and have been asked to sub. Hopefully, because you want to be there. Leave the critiques at the door. Go in and enjoy the students your lucky to meet and teach.”

Thank you for sharing with us Faige! There was a lot to learn for her! What was your biggest takeaway? 

Feature Friday: Kayla Eddington

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 Kayla Eddington, a second-grade teacher in Utah. Here is what Kayla has for us today! 

What is your favorite thing about teaching 2nd grade?  

“I love the age. They are so loveable. They love coming to school to learn and to see you as the teacher. I love that you can still discipline them and they will love you no matter what.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I grew up playing school at home. I thought it was the best thing ever. I guess my thoughts never changed because here I am. I love teaching kids and seeing them get things and share their learning with the class.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

I love to incorporate visual arts into all subject areas. Recently it has been super fun to add to my student’s writing. I love teaching songs that go along with the content we are teaching. I believe it helps kids remember what we learned that day.”

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

“This is such a hard question. There are so many choices. One of my favorite college professors read us Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. I fell in love with books. Clementine, the main character is so funny. I have read it to my students every year and they have all fallen in love with it as well and want to read all the books in the series.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“I had to learn a balance in all things. I try to not bring anything home unless it is something pressing. I have also learned to be ahead of the game and planned out a week or two in advance. This has saved me so many times.”

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

“I wish I would have known how hard it is and what teachers really do behind the scenes. They don’t teach you that stuff in college and you don’t come to understand it all until you are right in the middle of it all.  I love it just the same, however.”

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

“This saved me my first few years of teaching. There is no way I would have made it without other teachers on my team helping me through the way. I love to bounce ideas off of others as well. We all help each other out in many different ways. Everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is so helpful to have others to help out.”

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

“I love to hear my students teach each other. One way I love to do it and so do my students is during math. They love to come up in front of the class and show each other how to solve a problem and talk about why they did what they did. I literally have kids upset when they don’t get a turn. This is when I know they love having their voice heard and to feel included. I also love to have a mini-meeting on Monday mornings and let each student share their thoughts about what we might be talking about that day.”

Thanks for your time and thoughts, Kayla! I’m excited to read her book recommendation. Head back next week to read our Feature Friday post from a California teacher!

Feature Friday: Scott Hunsaker

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 Dr. Scott Hunsaker. He is a well known college professor at Utah State University teaching pre-service teachers. While teaching at USU he has received multiple awards including  Teacher of the Year, Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year, and the Carol and William Strong Human Service Awards from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. He was also honored by the Utah Association for Gifted Children for his career work in gifted and talented education. Here’s what Dr. Hunsaker has for us today.

What grade/ subjects have you taught and for how long? 

“I taught 6th grade in an elementary school for 8 years. I also taught about 1 year in the lockup unit of a private school for “troubled” boys, and ½ year in a 5/6 combination gifted magnet class. I’ve been at Utah State (25 years), and, before that, University of Georgia (4 years) teaching undergraduate and graduate students in teacher preparation programs and in gifted education.”

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject? 

“Sixth graders are on the cusp between childhood and adolescence. I enjoyed being there to help them through that transition. I also very much enjoyed teaching the social studies content—Western Hemisphere. I enjoy working with undergraduate students because their informed naivete inspires me to remember why I went into teaching so many years ago. Graduate students provide an opportunity for me to challenge and be challenged.”

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

“I’ve really enjoyed, recently, using an AI-enhanced group discussion format that has markedly improved student responses to weekly readings and students’ responses to one another.”

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

“I’m still very partial to Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. It is written in a unique format that is becoming more popular of late—free verse poetry. It provides a subtle critique of “state tests” and how we ought to be responding to those. It gets back at that theme of the transition between childhood and adolescence and even into adulthood that I’ve already mentioned makes teaching 6th graders so engaging for me. The use of figurative language is superb. Finally, I love stories that explore parent-child relationships, but especially father-child relationships. Another author who does much the same through his use of free verse poetry, but usually focusing on sports stories, is Kwame Alexander.”

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

“How do you really teach a math lesson.This was not presented well in my teacher preparation program. The math methods course seemed to be more a math “arts and crafts” class. Here at USU, the math methods courses do not make this mistake.”

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

“There have been many important changes in teaching since I began. Two changes, I’m not particularly glad to see—the emphasis on high-stakes testing for accountability and the deprofessionalization of teaching. Both are associated with the politicization of teaching and schools. I’m glad to see, however, a move toward standards-based grading, when it is implemented correctly, since this is a better indicator, in my opinion, of what a student is actually learning, as opposed to the more typical points systems leading to letter grades. I also believe that the internet gives teachers and students access to many wonderful resources that were previously unavailable.”

What has been one of your favorite teaching moments so far? 

“Oh so many to choose from. I’d have to say, though, that I thoroughly loved what occurred when I was doing a demonstration teaching with a 6th-grade magnet gifted classroom. Our text was Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett. By the students’ choice, we were discussing ideas related to the word “tyranny” that appeared in the text. The discussion ranged from discussing examples of “tyranny” in the story, but also in the students’ experience—including the “tyranny” they experienced on the playground.” The discussion lasted well over the 30-minutes I’d been given, and the teacher later told me she couldn’t get the students to end the discussion even after I left.”

What tips do you have for pre-service teachers? 

“Remember that you’re a novice. You don’t have to be perfect on your first attempts. You’ve got time and space to grow.”

What is a brief overview of standards-based grading? 

“I gave a brief overview above, but the keys are as follows: Define intended outcomes or standards clearly. Establish the evidence that you will accept that demonstrates that a student has met the standard. Provide students opportunities to practice the knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to those outcomes without consequence for those practice efforts. Provide regular and specific feedback. Especially for students who’ve not yet met the standard, use practice efforts to refocus instruction on intended outcomes (i.e., standards). Provide students who’ve met the standard opportunities to go beyond the intended outcome through extensions. Do not cloud the assessment of standards achievement (and, therefore, academic grades) with extraneous information such as attendance, punctuality (e.g., being late for class or being late with assignments), averaging in practice, number of attempts, etc. Provide multiple pathways and opportunities to demonstrate achievement of the standard.”

How and why is this more effective than traditional grading? 

“Because the focus is on what students are actually learning, not how or when they learn, the grade given is more likely to be a grade that reflects actual learning rather than exogenous variables.”

Why is it important to have a specified college course for pre-service teachers regarding assessment? 

“Assessment is all about gathering information to make instructional decisions. We should be gathering this information before beginning instruction about a set of standards, while giving that instruction, and after having given instruction. This helps the teacher know how to modify the planned instruction to meet the specific needs of groups of learners or individual learners, what adjustments to make along the way, and whether the instruction has been successful or not. The knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to use assessment in this way—not merely as a way for the student to earn points to receive a grade—is essential to the success of prospective teachers in schools today, as assessment, either through a shift to standards-based grading or high-stakes testing, is emphasized so much more than when I was in the public school classroom.”

Thank you Scott for your thoughts! It’s very clear Dr. Hunsaker is very intelligent in his field of study and has a lot of great information he can share with the education world. I am humbled he took time to be interviewed for the blog. 

Head back to our Feature Friday next week to see what interview we have in store for you! 

Feature Friday: Jake Downs

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 Jake Downs. Jake teaches 4th grade in a rural community in Cache Valley, Utah. He also runs a podcast regarding teaching called The Teaching Literacy Podcast. He gives us great insight on the podcast and how it has helped his teaching below. 

What is the Teaching Literacy Podcast and why did you start it?

“The Teaching Literacy Podcast grew out of my experience in my Ph.D. program at Utah State University.  I found there was so much compelling research out there that could really benefit teachers, but it can often be like finding a needle in a haystack.  I also had a few classes where we discussed that there’s not really great channels to allow teachers access to high-quality literacy research.  That really bothered me- there’s this wealth of knowledge out there that could help improve instruction, but it remains largely aloof from teachers.  The current model really follows a trickle-down diffusion approach, which takes time and loses certain nuances.”

“I started the podcast to help address that.  I take quality research, interview the researcher, and talk about their findings and how it would apply to classroom management.  I’ve seen enthusiastic responses from researchers and educators alike. The researchers I’ve talked with are not the stereotypical ivory tower professors, nearly all of them are former teachers who care greatly about supporting our nation’s teachers and readers. Teachers have appreciated listening to research straight from the researcher’s mouth, with ideas of how it could help their instruction.  It’s been a great experience so far, and one I look forward to continuing.”

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

“4th grade is a perfect age!  Old enough to be more independent and capable of impressive critical thought, but they still have the magic of childhood that seems to evaporate soon after.  This age group has great content to teach in reading and math as well.” 

“Reading-wise, the third and fourth grades pivot away from a steady diet of phonics and fluency practice, and towards more of a comprehension focus.  Fluency is still an important aspect of my instruction, but I’ve found great satisfaction in teaching reading comprehension, and supporting students to develop proficiency in silent reading efficiency.”

“Math for fourth graders slides toward complexity and abstraction.  For example, in third grade, it’s fairly easy to draw three groups of 6 to model 3×6.  In fourth grade, however, modeling 36×22 becomes more abstract.  We still do it, but we begin to use area models rather than direct representations.  That’s just one example, but I feel that something shifts between third and fourth grades with how the math is approached.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum?

“One way I’ve integrated art on and off throughout the years is through using ‘One-Pagers’ to integrate reading.  They’re pretty popular right now, just Google the term if you’re unfamiliar, but the gist of it is fusing an artistic representation of a scene from a specific text with summaries and/or direct quotes from the text. One thing good readers do is sift and separate important information from trivial details.  When done right, One-Pagers allow this to be practiced in the classroom in a way that students generally find very engaging.”

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

“Every year I read ‘City of Ember’ to my students.  It’s a great book about two kids in a dying city that get caught up in an adventure much bigger than themselves- or the city itself.  There are lots of twists and turns, with a jaw-dropping ending.  It’s always a highlight of my year and provides lots of great little teaching moments about comprehension throughout.  A careful reading will show that the ending was there all around, just the bread crumbs were so subtle that it really takes careful reading to put it all together.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“I’ve experienced burnout as an educator, something I think everyone who teaches young minds experiences at one time or another.  There’s a lot of ebb and flow to teaching, but burnout should be avoided at all costs.  It’s like your teeth, if you’re brushing and flossing then getting a cavity filled will be few and far between.  Even if you go to the dentist right when the tooth starts hurting, getting the cavity filled won’t be too bad.  However, if you neglect brushing and flossing, neglect going to the dentist when the tooth starts hurting then pain, infection, and the inevitable root canal is headed your way.”

Something in our culture has made us almost fanatically preventative with our oral health, yet tending to our mental health is much more reactive.  Find what ‘brushing and flossing’ means for you, and do it as much as you need to avoid burnout root canals.  For me, it’s reading good books, thinking deep thoughts, feeling in the driver’s seat with how my classroom is running.  When those things aren’t happening, burnout can creep in for me.  

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

“There was this perception among my peers in my teaching program that much of what we were learning was relatively useless because things would be different ‘in a real classroom.’  I feel that perception is unfortunate and even dangerous.  True, there is some degree of disconnect between the teaching program and actual classrooms.  But isn’t that true of nearly all non-apprenticeship programs?  Do CPA’s complain about the disconnect between business college and real-life accounting?  What about nurses?” 

“Using a metaphor of learning to fly might be a more productive view towards teacher preparation. Teacher preparation programs are like learning how to fly in a wind tunnel or a flight simulator, assuming many variables to focus on the principles of learning.  The goal isn’t to take a Cessna to the next state over, the goal is to learn the principles of lift, drag, and aero dynamism.  Learning those principles, and the tradeoffs between them are critical to being a successful pilot once you climb into the cockpit.  Yes, piloting an actual plane will have its own learning curve, but the knowledge gained from that crucial pre-flight training will make the difference between a pilot on ‘auto-pilot’ and one who truly understands flying.”

“Good teacher ed programs provide invaluable assistance in ‘flight simulators,’ which means they are not invaluable.  As a first-year teacher, don’t readily discard everything you learned in your prep program.  Find ways to bridge what you’ve learned into your everyday experience.”

How has running your podcast helped you in your teaching?

“Teaching fourth grade, working towards a Ph.D. in literacy, and starting a literacy podcast has been a very fortunate experience.  It’s given me a bit of a ‘workshop’ where what I read and learn from interviews I can tinker within my classroom, and then what I learn from that tinkering informs what I look into next.  It’s certainly been a unique experience- one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

If you could give teachers one piece of advice about teaching literacy, what would it be?

“Learn the pedagogy and research of literacy.  Teaching Literacy Podcast is one way I’m trying to make that research more readily digestible for educators, but there are many out there.  Once I really started to learn the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of fluency and reading comprehension my instruction shifted dramatically.  Rather than relying on the curriculum to do the teaching, my curriculum became a tool to leverage my thinking.  I think many of the reading curricula out there are well done and do the things they do for a reason, but they are not a replacement for teacher pedagogical knowledge.  Teachers teach, that’s the bottom line, so learning how reading works will greatly improve any teacher’s instruction.”

Thank you Jake for sharing your insight with us! If you are interested in listening to the Teaching Literacy podcast, you can find it on Apple, Google, or Stitcher. The majority of podcast apps have it available. You can also listen at Teachingliteracypodcast.com. 

Feature Friday: Hannah Giles

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 Hannah Giles. Hannah teaches first grade in Idaho. She received her education at Brigham Young University of Idaho. Here’s what Hannah has for us today! 

What is your favorite thing about teaching first grade?

“First grade is my favorite because my students are still excited about learning! They are so sweet and come to school with smiles on their faces no matter what they have going on outside of school. It’s really fun being around their positive attitudes every day and their energetic personalities!”

What made you want to go into teaching?

“I have always loved working with children and helping them learn new skills, so it was only fitting that I go into education! I have a  degree in early childhood education and special education, and I always enjoyed being around my uncle who had special needs when I was younger. My interactions with him inspired me to get the special education part of my degree, even though I currently teach in a general education classroom.”

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

“I would highly recommend “The Bad Seed” by Jory John and Petel Oswald! This is a great story about a seed who has a bad experience which makes him a mean and bitter seed. No one likes to be around him because of the way he acts towards the people around him. In the end, he learns that it’s okay to have bad days but it’s not okay to treat the people around you poorly! There are two other books by these two authors called “The Good Egg” and “The Cool Bean” which are also great!”

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

“I wish that someone would have told me that it’s okay for a lesson or activity not to work and to keep trying new ideas. You’re not going to reach every single student in the same way, but that’s only because they are all different! Students will remember more of how you made them feel in the classroom and the relationships you build. After the relationship is built, the real learning begins!”

Who influenced you most to choose a career education? 

“I had several teachers while growing up who influenced my choice to go into education! Michelle Watson taught me in fourth and sixth grade. She was an amazing teacher in the way she delivered lessons as well as the relationships she built with her students. I always knew that if I became a teacher, I would want to be just like her!”

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

“I work in a school that has a Spanish Immersion program and I have a partner teacher who teaches Spanish to our first graders for half the day while I teach English! Then we switch and do it again with the other half of our students. It is a small school, so we are the only first grade teachers, and I could not do it without her. She is an amazing teacher, and I have learned so much from working with her. She has taught me behavior strategies that have helped with some of the most difficult students. Collaboration is so important in teaching, and I lucked out with the best partner!”

How has teaching in a rural area affected your teaching, both positive, and negative?

“Teaching in a rural area has its pros and cons. The community is small, so it’s nice to know most of the parents and families that live there. The town I teach in has a very low SES which makes the kids there very humble and appreciative of everything. They are amazing kids! The main downside is that there are several students who come from hard home lives. Some of the students only eat the food they receive at the school, and it breaks my heart! Overall, I definitely prefer teaching in a small, rural school even with the negative sides of it.”

Thanks, Hannah for your great insight. I think it’s always fun to explore the point of view from a rural teacher because those are the schools I grew up going to. Come back next week for our next Feature Friday to hear from another Idaho teacher! 

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. 

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.”


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.