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: Keisha Wilson

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Keisha Wilson, she is a special education teacher in Utah. Her students range from 1st-5th grade and are considered medically fragile. She covers all subjects, reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art, music, social skills, as well as life skills. 

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

“I love teaching students with special needs. There can be challenges that are unique to our setting and the challenge I enjoy. These children can learn and grow just like their typical peers and having a belief in them makes my job possible. I love helping these students discover that they can do things is a wonderful thing. They grow in their beliefs in themselves and they are so excited to learn and be treated as a normal student and that is what I strive for. The other thing that is so amazing about these students is helping them learn how to communicate. They are so excited to be understood and communicate their wants and needs.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I have always had a love of children and working with children with special needs. I have had many small experiences that pushed me towards special education. I had this job fall into my lap and it has driven many of my decisions since. Teaching is a passion of mine and it has been something that found me, not I found it.”

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

“We use alternative communication technology which is the most utilized and best technology in my classroom. Things like switches, eye gaze computers, scanning computers, and Ipads. All of these things give my students a voice because they are unable to use their physical voice.” 

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

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. There are so many simple principles and elements that can be taught from that story.” 

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

“Because of the severity of the disabilities that our children have there are daily obstacles that we have to overcome. I think that the biggest that we do is that my students are non-verbal. We use alternate communication methods to talk to our students. They have eye gaze computers, scanning switches, and vision boards for the kiddos to talk.” 

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

“I wish I would have known that teachers are basically always behind. That being caught up in paperwork and grading is probably not going to happen and that is okay. It is also something that I love because it means that I will never be bored at work.” 

Mrs. Wilson is such a patient teacher and her co-workers have raved about how great she is with her students. She sees their needs and meets them where they need it. There is so much from her interview we can all learn from. 

Feature Friday: Mariah Woodford

Today’s Feature Friday is spotlighting a friend of mine teaching in Phoenix, Arizona. Mariah Woodford teaches first grade in an SEI mixed classroom. This means half of her students have to take the AZELLA test, and half do not. The AZELLA test is a standardized test given to students whose home language is primarily Spanish. Mariah loves teaching first grade because she loves the kind-hearted spirits and that at this age they don’t hold grudges, so the end of the day is always followed with a hug. She also loves crafting and using glitter any chance she has! 

What made you want to go into teaching?

“This question makes me laugh a little just because since deciding to get my degree in education I have been asked this question too many times to count. Long story short, I grew up in a family of six, so I was always around other kids. All of my jobs dealt with kids, (gymnastics coach, track coach, camp counselor, bus aid) and when thinking about my future I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to be a mom and a career that I could continue to do as my future kids got older.” 

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“Our school has a partnership with the Phoenix Symphony and they have created a program called “Mind Over Music” M.O.M for short. What happens is each grade is assigned a musician and together the musician and the teachers create lessons that mesh music into the student’s everyday learning.” 

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

“I can’t think of any in specific but you can’t go wrong with Dr. Suess. These books are extremely engaging and silly. These books are a great tool to use when teaching about rhymes and how to rhyme. They are also great “repeat after me” books. This can help them gain comprehension skills as they are more likely to remember what happened in the story with all of the repetition.” 

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

“During your own schooling, you start to think about your teaching philosophy and everything you really want to do and things you tell yourself you will NEVER do. Once I got my own classroom I realized everything I said in school wasn’t based on any real experience and a lot of my beliefs about my own teaching had changed. This, however, was a really hard pill to swallow because I was so committed to try and do everything I told myself I would do as a teacher. This truly is just not possible, especially in your first year. There were times that I honestly was so lost in all of the day-to-day tasks and learning the new curriculums that I had no idea if my kids were even learning anything. So to all new teachers- teaching is honestly the hardest thing you may ever do. I’m saying possibly harder than giving birth and taking care of a newborn. I have the experience to back that up.  Don’t think you can do everything. You just can’t. Even if you think your kids aren’t learning, you were trained in this field and just simply being in class and putting on your best teaching face is all they really need.”  

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

“The biggest challenge I face in teaching is behavior. Just when I think I have got my classroom under control and I feel they know and understand the rules and procedures, the next day it’s as if they have never heard of them before. I don’t believe I have overcome this, but I have learned some tools in helping keep the whole situation at a calm level. If you are heated and angry, there is no chance you can then de-escalate the also angry and heated child. It’s 100% okay to allow yourself to take a breather, leave the situation and collect your thoughts, before returning to the situation. I have to remind myself of this every day. Truly this I feel is what can make or break a teacher. The verdict is still out on what it will do to me.”

What has been your favorite experience from this school year so far?

“I am not sure if this fits into my favorite experience but I do have my all-time favorite comment. Background, my students were on the carpet free drawing on their personal whiteboards. I was getting the technology ready. This is what I heard/ saw:
Student A points to student B’s whiteboard and in all seriousness and full sass says “Yaaaassss Queen!!” I lost it and couldn’t help but laugh out loud.” 

What are the Negative impacts you have felt as a teacher with schools shutting down due to coronavirus? 

“I never in a million years thought that the end of my school year was just going to be ripped away from me, without even a chance to say goodbye to my students. Before all the schools shut down, we had left for spring break. I had left my kids telling them that when we get back they will have popsicles waiting for them, as we had just won the door decorating competition. Even though that is such a small thing, I find myself thinking about it a lot. It reminds me of all the other things we won’t get to do now as a class. Here are just a few: Easter activities and crafts, canceled. Field day, canceled. Big end of the year science project, canceled. Mothers day fun, canceled. Last week of school fun until the end, canceled. Giving them their last hug before summer, canceled. “

“I did not go to school to be trained on how to be an online teacher. I was trained to be in the classroom with human contact. Because of this virus, we were thrown a whole new situation and were asked to come up with a plan in a matter of days. Making video lessons with no students responding and just hoping that they have access to even watch them, honestly sucks.”

What are the positive impacts you have seen come from it? 

“A lot of teachers in my district would agree that this whole year we have been asked to implement all types of technology into the classroom in many different learning opportunities. We, however, felt there wasn’t ever enough time for us as teachers to really learn the technology ourselves to then correctly implement it for the students. WELL, now implementing technology is literally the ONLY thing we can do, and now have basically been forced to learn it, and learn it all. I feel I know so much more now about technology and implementing it into children’s learning.”

“I feel this has made my students realize how much they actually do like school and like learning. It was a good reset for us all. My students have been asking for more and more work. The one face-to-face meeting I have had with the few students that got on has been so heartwarming. All of their faces lit up when they saw one another and were just so happy to see their classmate’s faces.”

“I have a toddler myself who usually goes to daycare all day while I am at work. This has been a little blessing in disguise as now I have been given a lot more time to focus on my daughter. We have played all of the games of hide-and-seek and tag as you could possibly imagine!”

How has this affected your students? 

“Unfortunately, this has affected my students greatly. I work in a title one district. Switching to online school is not an easy switch. Most of my students don’t have a device and/or even internet access for the online learning that I have tirelessly been working on. My students are all bilingual, with Spanish being their first language. Because of that, learning how to read/ write is even harder than it already is. It is so crucial that my students go to school every day to learn all of the skills that they can so that they don’t fall even more behind. “

“As of right now, I have seen 8 of my 24 students doing the online assignments. That means 16 of them are most likely not doing any type of schooling at home. This is devastating as a teacher. My number one job is to teach my students how to read and have the foundational skills they need for the upper grades. For 16 of my students, this is not happening. And for my other 8 students, their learning is limited.  Teaching kids to read through a computer screen is not the easiest of tasks.” 

If you could give another teacher some advice on this situation, what would you tell them? 

“The only advice I feel there is to give is to take a deep breath and realize this is such a crazy situation that we have been put in, and we can’t fix it all. Every household in the whole world is having to change plans, and figure out how to live in this pandemic. I think it’s okay to take a step back and to only do what’s most important. In my eyes, that’s to simply be with your family, (or whoever you live with) and enjoy the time you have together that normally is not there. Things will work out, maybe just not how we expected them to.”

Mariah is a fantastic first great teacher with great insight into teaching. She has plenty of trial and error experience in her first few years of being an educator as well as her personal experience navigating COVID-19 school shutdowns, and I feel like it’s important information that all of us can learn from. Thanks for the interview, Mariah!

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.