Feature Friday: Westley Young

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 Westley Young, a Grade 3 teacher in Rome, Italy. Westley is our first international teacher on Feature Friday and we were excited to learn from him! Here’s what Westley has for us today.

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

“I thought long and hard about this question because I have discovered so many great children’s books every year since I became a teacher, but instead, I chose one which I loved as a child and which my own children are currently enjoying: ‘The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters) by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. My 6-year-old daughter especially loves reading each of the letters/cards delivered to each of the fairy-tale characters.

Also, ‘The Refugee’ by Alan Gratz, which I read with my Grade 5 class a few years ago. It’s incredibly moving and a must-read, too. Sorry, I couldn’t just pick one in the end!”

What is your favorite part of teaching this age group?

“I have taught all elementary grade levels as an art teacher and grades 2-5 as a homeroom teacher. I enjoy all ages and don’t have a preference for any one group.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education? 

“I have to admit that my passion for teaching only began once I started in the profession. I needed a job when I first moved to Italy and used my art experience to begin working with children at a summer camp. This success led to a role as an art teacher at the same school and it snowballed from there. Since then, through extensive reading, help from colleagues, the sharing of resources and expertise on social media, and of course watching and learning with children, my interest in the way children learn has continually grown.”

What are some educational tactics used in Rome that you feel are especially important to teaching, or the education of your own children? 

“I don’t think there are any ‘tactics’ used especially in Rome that are different to others elsewhere, but throughout my own teaching experience and my children’s education, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori method, and the IB PYP have all helped me consider how to respect children’s agency and use the whole community/environment to expose children to new experiences and support their learning. I have definitely picked up some pointers from these programmes when considering how to educate my own children.”

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

“To go with the kids and not to worry if things didn’t go as planned. When I first began teaching, I needed to know exactly what I’d do throughout the lessons, especially if the activity had finished earlier than planned or hadn’t ‘worked’. It took me a while to realize being in complete control was completely counter-productive to the learning experience that I wanted to offer.

 (Oh yeah, I wish someone had told me about Twitter, too!)”

Do you feel like the educational world on Twitter or other social media sites has helped you as a teacher? And how? 

“Twitter has been my most helpful tool as a teacher. There are so many inspirational and supportive teachers and parents, who have helped me think deeply about my practice, offer better learning experiences to my students, and find resources and books to help me continue to learn and question what I’m doing, always searching for better.”


Thank you for your insight today Westley!

Feature Friday: Matthew Winters

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 Matthew Winters. Matthew is a Jr. High English/creative writing/yearbook teacher, and technology instructional coach. Talk about the jack of all trades in the education world! Here’s what Matthew has for us today!

What is your favorite part of teaching Jr. High? 

“It is the energy the students bring to the classroom. Most students are starting to figure out who they are as a person and what they like to learn about and it is a genuinely great time to teach students.  They are inquisitive and engaged in a way that encourages great discussions.  A lot of people have misconceptions about teaching junior high school, they have too much energy or they are frustrating, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”

What is one of your favorite units you’ve taught? 

“Every year I do a unit on Romeo and Juliet and I use Michael Ford’s ‘Hip Hop Architecture’ to teach students about rhyme scheme and poetry.  We break out the legos, build little cities out of lines from Shakespeare and famous songs, and end up making a 3D city of their own poetry. It gives them another perspective on poetry and how it looks and feels. During that same unit, we take an old sword fighting of Shakespeare’s book that I found and actually choreograph the fights in Romeo and Juliet using markers/pens as swords. It gives another perspective on a play that students often come into school thinking is a romance.  It helps them to visualize the performance rather that just seeing it on the page or screen.”

If you could recommend one book to read, what would it be and why? 

“A few years ago I met Dan Ryder (Twitter: @WickedDecent) at a conference, read his book with Amy Burvall (@Amyburvall) Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom. Since then I have used his thoughts on creatively accessing student growth, adding choice in a project, adding media in a variety of ways into our classroom, and looking out for more than just the academic portion of a student’s life in my class, looking for social emotional learning and creativity throughout the curriculum. That would be my recommendation, but better yet go follow both Amy and Dan on Twitter and learn with them.”

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

“Technology has probably had the largest impact. Over the last year, before COVID, I built up grant money to buy a classroom set of Oculus Quests. This gives students the opportunity to experience cutting edge technology in the classroom and it is just becoming more and more accessible to schools. However, personally I have felt a shift in how we are accessing students and realizing that students are more than just academic profiles. The shift towards discussions and plans on social/emotional learning, portfolios instead of tests, and student choice has refreshed a lot of teachers in engaging ways.”

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

“Student voice is a key part of my classroom. I try not only to encourage asking questions of the course and its curricula, but also how we do assignments, due dates, and how students present their materials. This has led to some really engaging moments discussing novels, but also discussing the purpose of English Language Arts classrooms and the ways that students are assessed. As a teacher, I have to let go of the classroom reins to some degree, but it has helped a lot of my students find the purpose in the classroom and some have reengaged with the course materials in interesting ways.”

What is your favorite way to use technology in the classroom?

“First off, technology for technology’s sake is not a way to run a classroom. Make sure that there is a purpose to using the technology and that it is appropriately engaging students. With that said, I love making videos with students. I started by doing a silent film festival with my students during my first year and now we do projects with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to show how to change the world. As an English teacher, making videos hits so many of the standards I need to have students learn in one project it was just simply a great choice, but also it is just so much fun to make videos with my students.”

What advice do you have for teachers who are worried about using tech in their classrooms?

“Take a bit of time every day. Learn a new skill and add to it the next day. By the end of the year, you will be so far from where you were that you forget what it was like to teach without technology. When I started 3D printing with students I had no background in the process. I learned each day by trial and error and now five years later I can do things that I had no idea I could do like prototyping frisbees for PE or printing models for set design or making branded items for my school.”


I love walking away from an interview with new people on Twitter to follow! Thanks again, Matthew for the great interview. I hope we can all take these insights on technology and apply them to our classrooms. 

Rice Sensory Bin Tips

Hello, early educators and parents of littles who are ready to dive deep into the sensory bin world! Sensory bins can be daunting given the mess that can come with it. But I’m here to help ease your fears and bring more sensory play into the world. First, a few other resources for articles: 

One Big List Of Sensory Bin Fillers

Tips For Sensory Play In General

Here are my tips specifically for RICE sensory bins. 

SET BOUNDARIES: Before you even begin, set boundaries. Our number one rule is to keep the rice and tools inside the bin. This idea of rice in a bin to play with can be new for the majority of kids and we can’t just assume they know to keep the rice nicely in the bin. Give them good boundaries BEFORE you give them the materials. 

SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS: One thing I firmly believe is that we have to set kids up for success before we expect them to perform the way we want and expect them to. Even if you set them up for success, accidents still happen. The best solution I have found for keeping rice contained is to put the sensory bin on top of a quilt or rug. Then it can easily be shaken off outside or vacuumed up when you’re done!

KEEP THE BOUNDARIES: When lines are crossed, don’t be afraid to take a break from the rice. Separate the child and the bin however you can, take a minute for a break, and come back to try again for success when you feel the child is ready. 

FIND THE RIGHT TOOLS: Too many tools, not enough tools, or the wrong tools can make or break the sensory bin experience. We’ve done our fair share of experimenting with tools and here are our favorites. 

  1. Scoops and spoons 
  2. Small bowls 
  3. Ice cube trays
  4. Small people or animals for pretend play 
  5. Holiday-themed toys (usually from the dollar store) 
  6. Puzzle pieces for a puzzle find. Expect this to be messier because they’ll be pulling pieces out of the bin. 

PRAISE THE POSITIVE: Applaud and praise the correct behaviors. 
“I love how you’re sharing so nicely with your friend!” 
“You are keeping the rice in the bin so well. I am proud of you!”  

TASTE SAFE IS NOT AN AFTERNOON SNACK: Dyed rice is typically made taste safe (recipe coming soon!). Just because it’s taste safe doesn’t mean it should be eaten. It means you don’t need to call poison control if it ends up in their mouth at some point. With diligent supervision and boundary setting, babies as young as a year old can play with sensory bins full of rice. More on that in the next point. 

The first experience of a sensory bin looks like sitting right next to the child, helping them scoop and play. When rice is inevitably put in their mouth respond with, “Yucky! No no!” and help them spit it out. Repeat over and over. It takes multiple times to remind them and in multiple settings! Be diligent and they’ll understand. Take it away if you need to. 

IT TAKES TIME FOR RICE TO BE AN INDEPENDENT ACTIVITY: To go along with the last point, it takes time for any sensory bin to be an independent activity! If you’re a parent, handing your child a rice bin with toys and tools for the first time so you can make dinner isn’t setting them up for success. Rice bins are a side-by-side activity to teach your child self-control and pretend play. 

In an early childhood educational setting- model, model, MODEL how to play with any sensory activity. Set a responsible adult next to the bin with a handful of kids to monitor and keep the boundaries. 

Given time, independent play with rice is possible! 

Do you have any tips for rice sensory play you can add to this list? 

Feature Friday: Monte Syrie

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 Monte Syrie, a high school English Language Arts teacher in Cheney, Washington. Monte has started a personal project called Project 180 and explains more of what it is at the end of this post. Read through to see the cool, innovative way he decided to start teaching!

What is your favorite part of teaching in a high school setting? 

“I love high school because kids are standing at the important threshold of self-discovery as they transition between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood. And I am lucky enough to play a small part in supporting their journey. It’s incredibly inspiring and richly rewarding.”

What drove you to choose a career in education? And more specifically, teaching ELA? 

“I had a less-than-ideal childhood, and as such, school became a space of comfort and support. I never wanted to leave, so I became a teacher, and I am committed to making sure that school is that same space for kids who need what I needed.”

“Why LA? In 8th grade, I had an LA teacher who supported and inspired us by treating us like humans with needs rather than children with faults. I wanted to do the same, so I decided then and there to follow in his footsteps. And here I am.”

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

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss. I read this to my sophomores each year to add some simple novelty to our journey into their discovering and using their own unique voices. Of all that I do with them, supporting them in this is perhaps the most important thing I do. It really is a fun read. The kids love it, and it resonates with them.”

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

“Though I try to make student voice a central consideration in all of our shared experiences, the one thing that I do that is perhaps the most voice-centered is an activity I call Smiles and Frowns. It is how we begin our day, every day—no matter what. Basically, we go around the room and each has an opportunity to share a smile and/or frown with our classroom community. Importantly, kids may pass. I don’t believe in forcing voice. Kids have the right to decide. We have to honor that voice, too.”

“Using Smiles and Frowns is the single best choice I have made in my 25 years of teaching. It invites the human voice into our space. I believe each person is a story and part of that belief in the classroom is giving them an opportunity to share their story, which is the key idea expressed in our intro song that we sing together each time we do Smiles and Frowns.”

“It’s a beautiful day for smiles and frowns.
Won’t you share your ups and downs?
Won’t you share?
We all care.
Won’t you share your story?”

What is one of your favorite units you have taught to your students? 

“My most recent favorite unit is a writing unit we did last yeast called “The Wisdom Writers Diary.” Kids captured a life experience from which they gained wisdom about themselves and/or the human experience. We compiled and published a classroom diary for each period. The kids wrote and shared wonderfully wise words. It was a beautiful moment in our year. Beautiful.”

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

“I wish someone had told me my charge was to teach kids with English, not to teach English to kids. I—we—teach kids. Our subject matter simply provides a context. Of course, I gradually came to learn this, but I wish someone had imparted this wisdom to me earlier. Consequently, it is something I share with young teachers whenever I get the chance. We teach kids. Once we accept that, the dynamic in the classroom changes for the better—for all.”

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

“I started at the outset of the current “standardized age,” so I have seen the evolution of what I believe has become a mad obsession with the standardization of education, in particular our absurd reliance on standardized testing data as “the” measure. It’s not. But we have come to accept it so faithfully as the gold standard I fear we will never steer clear of it. And that’s unfortunate, for the more we standardize the less we humanize, and now, perhaps more than ever, we need to humanize education.”

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

“Not a huge tech guy. Oh, I use it, but I only use it as a tool. I have never bought into the notion that tech is “the” answer. It can be a great help, but in the end, it is only a tool. That said, in light of the distance-learning reality we face, I have enjoyed playing around with Screencastify. I have found it a useful tool for delivering instruction and providing help to my kiddos.”

What is Project 180 and how did it start?

“I started Project 180 in the fall of 2016. It was my first big step into my self-assigned journey to “change education” as the name of my website, Let’s Change Education, suggests. So, to that end, I took a big, bold step by tackling what I believed to be the biggest obstacle in bringing about significant change: grading. I decided to give all my kids an “A” for the year.”

“On day one, as they entered the room, I handed each a wooden “A” that I had made that summer. And then as class began, I explained to them that I was taking grading off the table by giving them an “A” for the year, so we could focus on learning. I then blogged about our experience each day. It was an amazing year—maybe the most authentic year I have ever spent with students as we turned our focus to learning for the sake of learning, not for the sake of producing a grade.”

“I learned a lot that first year of “turning education upside down,” giving rise to my trademark, Project 180 mantra, “Do. Reflect. Do Better.” And now as I set to begin my fifth year of Project 180, I am still rotating 180 degrees at a time, turning things upside down, seeking better.”

“I have moved on from giving all kids A’s, but the focus on learning remains as I now provide a “feedback-only” experience for my kids. Lots of doing, reflecting, and doing better to capture as we journey into this next school year.”


You can connect with Monte on twitter at @MonteSyrie

Thanks for all of your insight Monte! You are a great teacher doing great work for students everywhere! 

Feature Friday: Kami Meacham

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! 

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Feature Friday: Emma Mecham

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 Emma Mecham. She is a past professor of mine at Utah State University that I grew to love while taking her course. Her dedication to student relationships and really shining light to pre-service teachers of what they are in for in becoming an educator stood out to me. I could go on and on at how great an influence she was to me, but maybe that should be saved for a different blog post! Here is what Emma has for us today.

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

“I’m currently a teacher educator, working with undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I’ve been at USU for just over a decade now and really cherish my opportunity to work with future and current teachers and administrators. I certainly learn as much from them as they can from me. I’ve previously worked in elementary schools with younger, but no less valuable mentors, from Utah to India to Peru. My favorite grade to teach was third grade – it’s that sweet spot where kids don’t yet know I’m not cool but also have an increasingly complex curriculum. However, I’ve spent a fair amount of time working with preschoolers and kindergartners (and some extraordinary early childhood educators) in the past ten years, and their intellectual and social curiosity delights me. “

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

“There are so many wonderful children’s books, I couldn’t possibly choose just one – and it is, of course, dependent on age and reading ability. One of the really exciting changes I’ve seen during my career is the creativity in early reader books – Mo Willems comes to mind, but so do Sandra Boynton and Jon Klassen. The wit and artistry of those beginning reading books are wonderful.”

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

“Education has changed a great deal during my career thus far, with the effects of federal programs like NCLB, RTT, and ESSA and the growth of the school choice movement. There was a time during the most exacting years of NCLB when I wondered if I was doing my students a disservice by encouraging them to be teachers – teacher morale was very low, with good reason. However, there are a lot of really hopeful things happening in schools right now, and the graduate students I work with are leading fantastic innovations and finding ways to stretch the systems they work in to allow for greater excellence.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career education? 

“I suppose my interest in becoming a teacher was influenced by a whole group of wonderful educators, but probably foremost my mother. My mother taught (and continues to teach as a volunteer, well into her retirement) English Language Learners of all ages. Her love of her students and her passion for solving problems of equity in her community were daily lessons of the joys and value of teaching to me. I was also influenced by wonderful teachers in my own education – men and women who treated their students with respect and admiration, who got us outside into wild spaces and cultural spaces we hadn’t previously explored, who were curious and optimistic, and singularly individual. A few of those folks to come to mind straight away – Kaye Rheese, Dorthy Dobson, John Bedingfield, Nan Wharton, and Blake Pickett – remarkable teachers, all of them.” 

What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with other teachers? 

“I learn so much from my colleagues. Collaboration keeps me humble, excited, learning new methods and ways of seeing and practicing. And I find that is true not just among my University faculty colleagues, but with my elementary and secondary colleagues, parents, and community partners. There are a lot of people who know things I don’t and who are generous in their willingness to share.”

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

“One of my objectives as a teacher is to be sure that I am doing less talking than my students are. I try to provide as many opportunities for students to discuss ideas and demonstrate their understanding in groups as much as possible. Additionally, I give students choice in assessments and learning opportunities.”

What advice do you have for pre-service teachers? 

“Choosing to be a teacher is choosing a complex, difficult job. It is immensely rewarding, but you should prepare yourself for some exhausting days and a steep learning curve. It is also one of the most profound ways to make the world better. It’s not that I’m trying to scare pre-service teachers away, but I do want them to have clarity about the choice they are making before they commit to it. The high rate of teachers who leave the profession within the first five years is very costly and I believe we could improve that if pre-service teachers understood the profession better before they invested four years of college.” 

How do you create valuable student relationships and why is it important to do as an educator? 

“Many years ago when he was in graduate school, my older brother was given some wise advice by a mentor, that he passed on to me: “You can become a lawyer, but you’ll spend the rest of your life with tired middle-aged people. Or you can become a college professor and send the rest of your life with excited young adults.” And not only do I get to spend my days being taught and energized by young people, but the students I have are also passionate, nurturing, and committed to good. They are really easy to like and I think they can tell how much I do.”


I hope Emma was able to have at least the tiniest of influence on your life through this interview because she truly is a person I wish everyone had the opportunity to meet and build a relationship with. Thank you for taking the time to read a little slice of her knowledge! 

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?