Feature Friday: Cassie Lee

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 Cassie Lee, an elementary teacher in West Jordan, Utah. She taught second grade for a year and is currently teaching in a first-grade classroom. Here’s what Cassie has to say: 

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

“First graders are so enthusiastic and curious about everything! They are all little scientists and just want to know more about the world around them. Any question or experience can be turned into a teaching opportunity, and I love fostering that love of learning in them. They have such a love of life and there is never a dull moment in my classroom. How many people can say their job is never boring?” 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“My main reason for going into teaching was that I wanted to pay forward the hard work that good teachers before me had done. My dad is an immigrant and had some teachers who impacted his life greatly, to the point where he named my brother after one of them. Those teachers took the time to really care and went above and beyond the call of duty. I myself had many amazing teachers who also took the time to get to know me and loved me for who I was. I wanted to be able to have that kind of impact in the lives of children as well.” 

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

“At the first school I taught at, I had a SmartBoard in my room and that was a really fun, engaging and interactive tool. My students loved getting to use it and interact with it. It had its fair share of shortcomings and glitches (I will never forget when it didn’t want to work during an observation, ahh!) but overall it was an enjoyable resource. My students could sort information on it, roll interactive dice, write on it, etc. It gave all of them an interactive visual to participate with during my lessons and I enjoyed learning the variety of ways I could use it in my classroom.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“I enjoy using visual art in my teaching most of all, but I also enjoy using elements of drama, dance, and music. Integrating the arts is engaging and enjoyable and gives students more chances to be creative and demonstrate their learning.” 

“As a first-grade teacher, I have to keep my kids moving, so we act out and dance a lot. We will also learn songs connected to our curriculum too. Due to time constraints and maintaining a rigorous pace, I integrate social studies and science into reading, and I integrate the arts into that as well. We do an art project every Friday that is linked to the unit we studied that week. It is a really fun way to cap off that week’s worth of learning.”

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

“What a hard thing to do! I openly acknowledge that I am addicted to kids’ books. So I’m going to cheat a little and give two answers.”

“If I had to pick a book to use for teaching, it would be The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood. It is such a fun and clever way to teach story elements and get the kids engaged in narrative writing.”

“If I had to pick one children’s book that changed my life personally it would be The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. What a heart-wrenching and beautiful story. It really tugs at your heart and makes you think. If I taught an older grade I would totally read it as a read-aloud.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“That’s a big question. Burnout is very real and very overwhelming. I recommend remembering to take time for yourself and your own hobbies, outside of teaching. I myself am married but don’t have any kids. It’s easy for me to come home and work non-stop. I’m learning how to cut myself off and take time for self-care. It’s not a selfish thing, it’s how I keep myself healthy and fully able to do my job to my best ability.” 

“I’m also working on saying no. That sounds weird, but I tend to be the kind of person who just keeps accepting more and more additional work and responsibilities. I like being helpful and tackling big projects, but I’ve started noticing that I am burning out quickly. It’s important to be self-reflective and learn to create some boundaries.”

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

“That it’s okay to acknowledge my mistakes and apologize to my class. Whether that was over something I mistaught, a situation I mishandled, etc. You’re not a bad teacher because you’re not perfect. You’re not a bad teacher for messing up. You’re just human, and that’s okay. It’s always funny to me how my kids react to me apologizing. They’re always so shocked. Adults hardly ever apologize to kids for their mistakes, right? But it’s a valuable lesson to see and learn- no one is perfect, and that’s okay.”

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

“We all learn from each other! I have always been the youngest person on my teams and I worried in the beginning about not being able to contribute. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Younger teachers bring a fresh perspective and new ideas. It’s been really enjoyable to collaborate and see what comes of it. Everyone benefits and all of our teaching practices improve.”

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

“Student voice is a funny thing in first grade. First graders can be very random and silly, so I try to hone that to my advantage. You gotta think quickly on your feet when a kid replies to your question with a random answer, like telling you their pet’s name. I always try to affirm their initial response but will push for deeper thinking with questioning. I want kids to feel comfortable to be themselves and express themselves, but I also want them to learn how to do that respectfully. They are all such unique individuals, so it’s also fun to work on collaborative projects, like a class story or art project.”


Thanks, Cassie for the great words you have for us today! 

Feature Friday: Logan Nielsen

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 Logan Nielsen, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher. She received her education at Utah Valley University and then taught for 8 years before eventually staying home to raise her family and become a different kind of teacher. Here’s what she has to say about teaching- 

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

“I taught junior high English for 8 years and absolutely loved it. People would always give me a look of either pity, amazement, or sympathy when they found out what grades I taught, but I would always respond by telling them how much I loved it and loved my students. One of my favorite things about teaching junior high was that the students are still so impressionable. They, for the most part, are very receptive to learning and are still young enough that they haven’t been jaded by the world. They are still kids at heart but are also turning into incredible young adults.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I chose to go into teaching because I had a passion for my content area. I loved all things reading and writing, so teaching English just made sense for me. I wanted to share that passion with young people and help them realize how amazing reading and writing could be.”

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

“I had a smartboard in my classroom and loved to use that. I also frequently used Google Docs for assignments. We frequently did PowerPoint or other types of computer-based presentations. As cell phones became more popular among that age, I began to utilize their access to various apps for classroom instruction.”

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

“This is a tough question for me! There are so many great ones out there. For me, personally, I love anything by Shel Silverstein. He has an amazing way of teaching poignant lessons through silly poetry. Kids love it, and adults do as well.”

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

“I saw a shift in how students learn. Technology began to play a much larger role in my later years of teaching than it did in my earlier years. I also saw a change where students began to be more responsible for their learning. They were able to do more inquiry-based learning where they were in control of what they were doing.” 

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

“I believe that student voice is absolutely crucial to a positive learning environment. Students do so much better if they have a say in what is going on. They love choice. As a time when they are faced with so many life changes, and often times are wanting to feel some independence, I believe that allowing their voices to be heard is extremely beneficial. I loved giving project options and letting them choose what they wanted to do. I loved free writing time, where students were able to tell me anything they wanted to. I loved getting them to think critically about issues that impact them or that they would have opinions on. I saw students blossom when given the chance to share their voice. It is truly one of the most magical things about teaching.”

What is your favorite unit you teach and why is it your favorite?

“With my 7th graders, my absolute favorite unit was teaching the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved teaching it because, even though it was written in the 1960s, there was still so much that was relatable to teenagers today. It was always the one book I could count on every student enjoying and getting involved with. I mean, who doesn’t love Ponyboy?!”

“With my 8th graders, my favorite unit to teach was the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry. It became my favorite because, again, there are many things that are relatable in it. It has so many topics and issues that are excellent discussion starters. It’s amazing how deeply 14-year-olds feel about certain issues, and I loved seeing them come to life when we would discuss the issues present in the novel.”


Thanks for the great insight, Logan! What a fun Feature Friday we had this week! Next week we get to hear from a second grade teacher with an excellent book list to share with us, come on back to hear what she has to say!

Feature Friday: Nadine Ball

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 Nadine Ball, a second-grade teacher at Ucon Elementary in Ucon, Idaho, which is where I went to elementary school! She has been teaching there for 30 years now. Nadine is mom to Rachel Hassman, our feature Friday interview from last week. Rachel mentioned what an influence her mom has been in choosing a teaching career, so I only found it fitting to interview the legend herself! 

 Mrs. Ball loves second graders for their sense of humor and ability to accept other peers without judgment. She also loves what an innocent view they have of the world. Here’s what Nadine has for us today. 

How do you integrate the arts into your classroom? 

“I admit I was better at this when our district did not hire music teachers. Now we have them and it is awesome. When I was without music teachers, I recruited parent volunteers to come into the classroom and teach music. As far as art itself, I have always encouraged creativity and taught some sort of art lesson weekly. I still do this and it definitely varies each week and is often related to holidays. I rely on what I learned in my art methods class years ago to teach such things as grid, painting, etc.”

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

“Wow, to recommend just one childrenś book…I cannot do it!
Maybe to recommend just one author:  Here are three.”

Suzy Kline (Horrible Harry series)
Tomie dePaola
Chris Van Allsburg

What are your best tips to avoid burnout? 

“a. take summer off and relax!
b. hang out and chat often with colleagues; share fears and frustrations
c. try to always appreciate kids and their unique qualities”

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

“To just chill out and enjoy each day! Recognize the fact that every day will not be a great one and you always have tomorrow. Kids are resilient and forgiving.”

How has education changed in the years you’ve taught? 

“Education has changed every single year. I would say Math and Reading instruction has seen the most changes, mostly in theories and what works best for kids. When federal money is flowing, math and reading curriculum is updated often and each time something new is adopted, it is slightly different. HOW to teach math and reading is always tweaked, depending on what book on the subjects is popular at the time.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom? 

“Second graders do pretty much what I want them to and I call the shots mostly. I feel that I welcome all types of opinions and allow kids to express themselves freely. We do quite a bit of journal writing, creative writing and research and I think this allows kids to use their own interests. None of my kids participate in student council, where their voice could change the school. But we do have that and as kids get older, their voice maybe means more. I always listen to kids and their ideas!”

What are your favorite units to teach? 

“–solar system
–early US history and native Americans
–careers
–Idaho and state symbols
–rocks/minerals”


It was so fun to be able to interview two generations of second-grade teachers and see the insight they had for us. Enjoy that new grandbaby, Nadine and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today! 

Feature Friday: Rachel Hassman

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 Rachel Hassman, a second-grade teacher in Nampa, Idaho. She claims her best friends are 7 to 8-year-olds who are silly and creative, yet more capable than we give them credit for. She started her education at Northwest Nazarene University where she was recruited as a soccer player, started her undergrad as pre-med, then switched later to an education degree. She also has a master’s degree in curriculum, innovation, and instruction. Receiving a master’s degree in administration may be in her future as well! A certain part of their future is their first baby coming soon, how exciting! Read what Mrs. Hassman has to say about teaching below. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I originally began college as a pre-med student. I have always loved science and I only saw myself in a career that was geared towards community and public service. Through many conversations with my mom (who is also an incredible 2nd-grade teacher!), I began to realize that the career I wanted was in education and not in the medical field. As a young person, my only idea of “helping” was to heal the sick. After being involved in a few mission trips and serving opportunities I began to realize that education is the tool that many families and communities need in order to make real growth and change happen. Education is transformative in that it can empower the educated individual to become whoever they want to be. There is no geographic movement, living situation, or amount of poverty that can take away your knowledge. Schools are the link between families, services, success, and so much more. I realized that I wanted in on this transformative work so I changed my major and never looked back!” 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

“A big challenge I face daily is student behavior. I teach in a school whose population is 92% below the poverty line. Our entire building receives free breakfast and lunch. I have many students who are homeless and many more who live in foster care. Because of these demographics (and all that comes along with these living situations), students arrive in my room with countless past and current trauma’s affecting their emotional well-being. Before I even have the chance to intervene academically I have the challenge of teaching emotional regulation and creating an environment of safety. Fostering Resilient Learners was an amazing read and it taught me how to recognize, empathize, and work with students dealing with the effects of trauma. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who works with people because chances are, we’ve all been through something!” 

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

“You’re going to get punched. You’re going to have to forgive the kid. And you’re going to have to greet him with a smile the very next day. Crazy, unpredictable things are going to happen with your group and your year. Every year. You absolutely HAVE to lean into your support systems. I can remember calling our instructional coach into my room for 5 minutes so I could leave and let out a good, frustrated cry. I can also remember waiting way too long to call on my principal for help in many difficult situations. I also didn’t value a relationship with our school counselor in my first year. Now, in year 4, she is as much a counselor and support system for me as she is for my students. You have so much support in your building. Look for it, ask for it, and be so grateful for it.” 

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

“There is always something new. Some years everything is new! This is one of the things I love about teaching. There is almost nothing I am currently doing that I did in my first year. Constant change, updating, and researching creates the kind of learning environment kids need: one that fits them! The biggest change I’ve seen in my own teaching is the attention to differentiation. I no-longer teach the bulk of my day whole group. In fact, there is very little I do whole group! Most of my time is spent meeting in differentiated groups that are fluid and change weekly and sometimes daily. I see this as a shift in education as a whole as well. Increased access to technology helps in the differentiation of students’ independent work. I’ve been introduced to many different programs that can help fill gaps in phonics, math facts, etc. These are incredibly helpful to me so while students work independently on filling their own gaps, I can focus on a small group and the exact needs of that group.” 

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education? 

“My mom! I grew up in her classroom before and after school and I always knew how much she loved her job. She has always been an incredible example of serving her community through teaching (and many other endeavors). I’ve known my whole life that her job also allowed her to be a really good mom for me and my brothers. That is something I value as well -my husband and I are expecting our first baby in May of 2020! She may not know it, but just by watching my mom all those years, she made teaching seem like the best job in the whole world. Then when college came along, she was so helpful to guide me through my transition from the pursuit of the medical field to the pursuit of education. She was patient and encouraging in my search for what was always right there in front of me!”


Rachel has great advice for all of us, especially what she has to say to first-year teachers! That is advice any teacher can use. Thanks for the great interview, Rachel, and congrats on the new baby coming soon! 

Feature Friday: Joe Capson

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 Joe Capson, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Joe is in his first year of teaching and has great insight on teaching challenges as well as the evolution of technology. Here’s what he has to say. 

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

I really enjoy getting to know the students and I absolutely love the subject matter, which makes teaching it fun. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

When I was in high school I worked at a summer camp called Pine Basin for three or four years. During this time, I had to teach two classes a week and I felt like teaching was something that I could do and that I had a talent for. Also, my family is filled with educators and I have always felt close to the education system through my family. 

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

There are a million different interesting historical videos and I love to utilize them in my class because students relate to videos and it breaks up the monotony of classes sometimes. I also utilize my smartboard for interactive activities and for note presentations. 

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

I would recommend the book Hatchet as well as the various sequels to it. The reason why is because the book teaches you that you can do hard things even as a young teenager. Also, it teaches kids self-dependence, an appreciation for the outdoors, and it is a great read to boot. 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge that I face is classroom management. I tend to try to teach high energy and I encourage student involvement in my lessons. However, in doing this I feel that students take advantage and want to shout out or joke too often or during inappropriate times. I try to make my class fun but I have to struggle to find the balance between a class that is fun and a class that is only fun with no learning or discipline. Finding that balance has been a challenge. 

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

That at first I would probably hate it and feel overwhelmed and terrified and question my life choices, but after teaching for a while and getting to know the students you really get invested and you become friends with your coworkers and you’re not alone in all of this. Suddenly you find yourself sad with the thought that these students have to leave. I wish someone told me that it was okay to feel discouraged and downtrodden. I also wish someone told me that college only prepares you so much for being in the classroom and to really understand anything you need to just do it. 

How have you seen education change through time?

I have only taught one year but I already know that it has changed since I was in middle school. The students today are good kids with similar challenges that we all face, however all of those challenges are amplified through social media, access to technology at any time, and popular culture. When I was in middle school if you were cool, you had a Razor flip phone. Now you are not cool unless you have an iPhone 10. Also, technology has been implemented far more in the classroom online forums and class iPad sets are not rare at all, whereas when I was in high school, one teacher had iPads and we all thought it was crazy.

Feature Friday: Danielle Macias- Emphasis on COVID-19 School Shut 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 Danielle Macias, an innovative learning coach in Orem, Utah. She workes directly with teachers to improve pedagogy using innovative ideas. Before she became a learning coach, Danielle taught English and ESL. 

I asked Danielle to interview today specifically regarding the COVID-19 school shutdowns because I have witnessed how influential she has been to teachers at such a vulnerable time. Her knowledge and insight, not only as a learning coach but as a parent as well, I felt needed to be shared beyond our community. Here is what Danielle has for us: 

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

“My favorite thing about teaching teenagers is that they are discovering who they are and where they belong in society. I like to think that the literature we read, the topics we write about, and discussions we share help mold the person they choose to become. 

My favorite part about coaching teachers is that I get to witness how they refine their practice and tackle challenges that were previously not allowing them to enjoy teaching to the fullest.”

What are the negative impacts you have seen with schools shut down for COVID-19?

“One of the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on education is the limited face-to-face interactions due to social distancing. Building classroom culture can take months to cultivate, and most teachers are now reteaching classroom procedures and expectations as they navigate online teaching, which can be frustrating and difficult to accomplish when you cannot see students face-to-face. The COVID-19 dismissal happened from one day to the next, and both teachers and students are now grieving the loss of those daily interactions with their teachers and peers.”

What are the positive impacts you have seen?

“One of the positive impacts of social distancing during COVID-19 is the innovative ways in which teachers use technology to teach online. In less than a week, Alpine teachers collaborated with Innovative Learning Coaches and other school leaders in technology to create content for online teaching. They did not sign up to teach online, yet they gracefully rose to the occasion.”

“Additionally, teachers have found ways of maintaining relationships with students through social media, online discussion boards, live video conferencing, and video announcements. Personally, I have seen how my 6-year-old daughter looks forward to seeing her classmates and her teacher when they meet online.” 

How have you seen the schools, teachers, and students rally together during this hard time?

“I have seen teachers who usually do not socialize with others out of their department collaborate with each other by sharing resources, tips for online teaching, and provide emotional support. Teachers have not lost their sense of humor, and I can usually expect a meme or lighthearted message in my inbox. Most heartwarming of all is that, although students cannot come to teachers, teachers have found ways to go to students. I have heard of teachers dropping off materials to students, setting up one-on-one virtual meetings with students, and even driving by students’ homes as teachers put on a car parade.”

How have the teacher’s reacted to this situation?

“Teachers are stepping up to the plate! The teachers with whom I work are constantly refining their craft and relying on each other for support. In a way, social distancing brought our schools together because we had no choice but to collaborate.”

What tips do you have for parents at this time?

“At this time, I know how difficult it is to work from home and teach my own child. My advice for students and parents is to give yourself permission to prioritize your mental health and focus on the essentials. If something did not get done today, social distancing will still be here tomorrow, so that worksheet can wait. When online learning becomes unbearable, take a break, and enjoy each other. Who knows when families will have the abundance of time we have now to be together again.”

What tips do you have for teachers right now?

“My biggest tip for teachers is to create a work schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself answering emails all day long. Set aside time to offer feedback on assignments and discussion boards. Set aside time to improve your craft by looking at best online teaching practices. Set aside virtual office hours.”

“And just as important, set aside time to step away from your screen and check-in with yourself. It is easy to feel guilty about stepping away because every email seems urgent, and you think that if students are working after your own work hours, then so should you. The hardest part of this is being accountable to yourself because you can easily be sucked back into replying to just one short email or recording one quick instruction video until your work has bled into your evening.”

“One way I have managed my responsibilities is by creating a list of weekly to-dos in Google Keep so I stay organized, using the checkbox feature to check-off tasks makes me feel accomplished, and the list reminds me of where I left off the day before.”

“When work becomes stressful, it is comforting to know that by teaching online, educators may be providing the only sense of normalcy students will experience until this pandemic comes to an end.”

Thanks, Danielle for the great insight and tips you have fun us! Everyone stay safe out there and wash your hands! 

An Introduction To Feature Friday

Welcome to Feature Friday! A space where every Friday I will be interviewing a new educator, asking them questions about their teaching and learning, then sharing this here with you. 

Why Feature Friday? Because collaboration brings results. 

I think teachers everywhere can agree that some of their best ideas for teaching haven’t come from sitting in their college classes or in their conferences. They come in the copy room after school or in the teacher’s lounge during lunch with casual collaboration between one another. And being the big thinker I am, I know this can expand beyond the walls of our school with an #edtech mindset. Cue: Feature Friday.

Each Friday will be a new teacher, in a new part of the nation, possibly the world. We will see an insight into who they are, why they teach, and the resources they find most helpful. In the end, I hope we can all walk away with more knowledge as educators to move forward and teach our students to the best of our ability. 

In the spirit of collaboration, if you have any great questions that would be good to ask in an interview, please comment below or reach out via email. If you are an educator that would like to be featured, again, please reach out.