This downloadable resume provides a brief glance into my experience both within and outside of the classroom. As a licensed teacher, a business professional, and as a parent I have a wide-breadth of experience that cannot be fully expressed within a traditional resume format. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Dewey. Piaget. Vygostky. Bruner. These are just a few of the educational theorists and cognitive psychologists of the modern era who agree that children learn by making connections to their own prior knowledge. I believe that the brain works through the recognition of patterns that occur both within and outside of ourselves. The ability to relate what we experience through the senses to what we have already experienced is the foundation of all learning. For this reason, assessing students’ prior knowledge and using that knowledge to inform instruction is a key element in supporting student learning. Realizing that students make these connections through the perspective of their own unique strengths and intelligences will prompt me to present a variety of lessons and assessments accordingly.
Connecting Content Areas
With the understanding that time is the most valuable asset in the realm of teaching; I realize that I will need to make every moment of instructional time count. I believe that this is best accomplished through integration of content areas. Where some content areas seem to relate naturally, others can be connected through the use of themes and “big questions.” These connections between content should not be fabricated, however, and should authentically represent connections that occur in the real world. It is through these thematic ties and content integration that students learn to transfer both information and strategies between content areas and relate them to their own personal experiences.
Connecting With Others
Before students can benefit from the connections forged in the classroom between prior knowledge and content, they must be encouraged to connect with the teacher and with each other. Creating and maintaining a classroom environment where these relationships can develop is of primary importance at the beginning and throughout each school year. I believe that balancing classroom management with student involvement and input helps to create a sense of community. When students believe that they are accepted by both fellow students and the teacher, they can become a fully engaged participant in their own learning experience. Students, who see their teacher and peers not as adversaries, but as collaborators, can make the interpersonal connections necessary for a comfortable and successful learning experience.
Connecting to the World Around Us
Students are never too young to see that they are part of a larger community. Whether their experience is through school, a sports team, or scout troop, they are interacting with a potentially diverse circle of people. As this circle grows, children see their potential to affect the immediate community or even the world at large. As a teacher, I believe that one of my mandates is to help young people understand that they are not bystanders, but active participants in the world around them. As technology continues to make this global community smaller, students are becoming more connected than ever before. By actively engaging students in the classroom and in school communities, students will begin to learn how to exist in and interact with the world.
A fourth grade lesson about liquid measurement using Mr. Gallon as a visual reinforcement of unit conversions within the customary system. This lesson includes hands-on learning and a literature connection to Making Room for Ripley by Stuart J. Murphy.
The first lesson in a middle school unit about the American political process. This lesson concentrates on the role of political parties and includes an opportunity for students to create their own party and platform.
A middle school lesson exploring potential and kinetic energy. This lesson is presented through a hands-on, inquiry-based experiment in which they work in groups to design, construct, and test their own roller coaster.
Looking Through the Window Teaching History Through Art
U.S. History: 1877 to the Present
The arts provide a powerful vehicle to engage students in the study of all content areas. The following is a project that I created as part of my MAT program. Instead of created a unit plan, I elected to create a framework for an entire year of middle school history using primarily visual art.
Inspired by the work of American painter Edward Hopper, the concept of “looking through the window” was developed to help middle school students interact with United States history in a more tangible and personal way. Hopper, known for painting scenes using the perspective of looking into a space from the outside, offers an excellent vehicle for students to create their own vantage point from which to view history. Using art to help students solidify a sense of time, place, and culture strengthens their understanding through visual reinforcement.
The use of art is not limited to visual reinforcement however, and is more than a hook or springboard for this history course. Looking Through the Window is a foundational architecture designed to support the structure of the entire year of study. Pieces of art have been selected to coordinate with each of the standards of learning, forming a progressive timeline for the course. This means more than simply displaying a contemporaneous art print of a portrait of a famous person or depiction of a famous scene. Students will be exposed to art that helps them understand the time and society at large, a glimpse through the window of history at what was really happening at the time.
Through genuine analysis of the component pieces found in the art selections, students can witness changes as they developed historically and found representation in artistic form. What technological advances or social changes occurred in the United States between the creation of John Singer Sargent’s A Table at Night and Hopper’s Chop Suey? What was the change in status of the Civil Right’s movement between Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With and Jacob Lawrence’s Parade? These pieces are not to be looked at simply because they are painted well, but because they communicate to the viewer what was going on, a moment in time captured by the artist. The different perspectives and different social agendas found in art are all part of real history, a less processed and manufactured history than can be found in textbooks.
Beyond cultural and social interpretation, students can also analyze the pieces from a more aesthetic perspective, seeing actual changes of technique and materials, and understanding their relationship to technological developments. This will help in creating a timeline, not only of social changes, but also of recognized art movements that helped to define the culture and sub-cultures of the United States.
Though visual art is the primary vehicle for this concept, other arts could easily be incorporated. Adults often forget how integral music is to the lifestyle of an American teenager. For many, the music that may once have defined us or associated us with a particular social group (dead heads, metal heads) fades into the background music of car rides and trips to the grocery store. At no time in the past, however, has music been a more powerfully defining force than it is for young people today. This makes the use of music in conjunction with this framework a potentially powerful tool for making connections for the students. When playing examples of the Jazz Age from Duke Ellington, we must move beyond the listening experience and give it context. Correlations between what young people were listening to, then and now, are evident. Generations of parents have strongly disliked and shown lack of understanding, or even willingness to understand, of why kids listen to the popular music of the time (e.g., Elvis, The Beatles, Nirvana). Finding music that represents the same time period as the selected painting develops a fuller connection to the underlying history.
Music is not the only means of connection through the arts. Literature and poetry can also be used to “see” the social climate and important issues of an age. The novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald take on more than their original purpose and become primary source documents of historical information. A snapshot of a moment in time, literature becomes another way to look through the window to the past.
Using varied art forms is a powerful tool for the realization of whole concepts in history, as opposed to piecemeal date and event memorization. Ultimately, developing music and literature connections for each of the selected art pieces would be beneficial. For the purposes of this project, however, the concentration is on the pieces of visual art themselves.
The idea of Looking Through a Window provides the framework for an entire year’s study of United States history. In order to utilize it fully, there has to be a starting point, a method of implementation. I propose to begin the year with a with a timeline activity. This activity can be used not only to introduce the concept of looking at history through a window, but also to introduce the idea of learning to use art in a way that most students have not experienced before.
After this preliminary lesson, a lighted window box will be used as a device to continue the theme throughout the rest of the year. Art selections that represent the individual SOLs will be displayed during that period of study. (Suggestions for each SOL are provided in the resource section of this document.) One recurring activity that will encourage both historical and aesthetic analysis of the selected pieces will be an exercise comparing the current piece with the one representing the upcoming SOL. For instance, the works A Table at Night by John Singer Sargent and Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey would be compared to evaluate both social and technological advances, as well as some of the stylistic changes that occurred in the thirty years between their creation. Examples of comparisons that students might come up with include electrification (candles were used for illumination in the first painting, whereas the light bulbs in the restaurant sign demonstrate the use of electricity in the second). Students might also notice the change in fashion or the movement to a more urban setting. Artistically, students may notice the influence of photography or movie making on the how the paintings are arranged. Students’ ability to analyze, compare and contrast, and appreciate the social value of art will all be developed through the ongoing use of visual art during this course. At the end of the course, students will have been exposed to a wide variety of artists and styles, and will have a complete timeline of representative pieces for this era in history.
Additionally, students will have the opportunity to make art themselves. In keeping with the window motif, students will create a scene through a window, in which they illustrate what is meaningful to them about the particular time being studied. This activity would not be done for every SOL, but as a supplement to help tie together concepts associated with a substantial unit of study. Students would be given a broad range, concentrating less on creating a ‘beautiful’ piece of art and more on what it represents. By creating, in addition to viewing art, students inscribe their own visions of history.
The value of integrating art into history instruction cannot be overstated. When used as part of instruction and not simply relegated to background illustrations of war scenes and dead presidents, the art becomes part of the history itself. Art is history. More than just a pictorial representation, the reason for its existence is a sign of what is culturally significant at any given moment in time. Give, by Joseph Vavek, is a piece that not only depicts life during the Great Depression, but it is also valuable because it was commissioned as part of FDR’s New Deal WPA effort. The piece is not only a work of art. Its existence is truly a part of the political and social history of the United States. This concept of using art to teach history could easily be adapted for use in any history class and at any grade level.
There are layers of complexity that the use of art can create in the classroom that can give students an opportunity to see what they have not seen before, prompt them to think on a higher level, and perhaps achieve a greater appreciation for both art and history in the process. Teaching history should be so much more than simply talking about dates and events. Through this arts integration concept, doors can be opened in students’ minds by giving them the opportunity to look through the window to the past.
Students will be introduced to the concept of learning about history by looking through a window. A series of paintings by American artists will be used to exemplify social, cultural, and technological changes that developed from 1877 to the present.
The integration of literature into content area teaching not only reinforces literacy, but also has the potential to spark and maintain student interest in a way that few other resources can. The ability to select the right book for a lesson or concept is an asset that goes far beyond the language arts classroom. I find that literary reviews written by educators help to provide a real feeling for the work, as well as an idea of how the work might be effectively used in the classroom. The following is a sample of book reviews that I have written for multiple reading levels and genres.
John, Paul, George & Ben By Lane Smith
John, Paul, George, and...Ben? No, it’s not a Beatles reunion, but a different Fab Four, our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson, the "independent one", joins the group too in this irreverent, but humorous take on the lives of John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.
Read full review
John, Paul, George & Ben By Lane Smith. Hyperion, 2006. 40 pages. $16.99
John, Paul, George, and...Ben? No, it’s not a Beatles reunion, but a different Fab Four, our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson, the "independent one", joins the group too in this irreverent, but humorous take on the lives of John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. The highly stylized cartoon characters present miniaturized versions of these giant historical figures. Familiar tales about each are retold and we discover the "real" story of how these men ended up as some of the most important in American history. Engaging for children and adults alike, these tongue in cheek accounts of the early lives of the founding fathers are full of both fact and fiction. A page at the end explains the veracity of the "facts" included in the book. Adults will enjoy Lane’s sardonic wit, while younger readers will find these characters, so often presented in humorless non-fiction, much easier to relate to when seen as pint-sized troublemakers. The pen and ink illustrations are combined with collage and detailed backgrounds that invite the reader to linger on each page to find hidden humor (a sign near Paul Revere’s shop is for "Harry Wigs") and historical tidbits. Not to be confused with true biography or accurate historical prose, this book would be a fun read-aloud, offering a springboard to finding out more about who the founding fathers really were.
Thomas Jefferson By Victoria Sherrow. Illustrated by Tim Parlin.
Sometimes even the most interesting historical figures can seem boring when presented by the wrong author. That is certainly the case with this biographical account of the life of our third President.
Read full review
Thomas Jefferson By Victoria Sherrow. Illustrated by Tim Parlin. Barnes and Noble, 2002. 48 pages.
Sometimes even the most interesting historical figures can seem boring when presented by the wrong author. That is certainly the case with this biographical account of the life of our third President. While the vocabulary is appropriate for young readers, the awkward sentence structure (many sentences begin with the word ‘and’ or end with prepositions) demonstrates a pronounced lack of writing style. The content was organized chronologically, with a time line in the back of the book to reinforce the order of events that happened during the life of this great American. Many paragraphs, however, contain disjointed subject matter mixing details of his personal and public life in a way that could confuse readers of all levels. Unfortunately, Sherrow shows a decided lack of interest in her subject, as demonstrated by the absence of even a mention of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, an accomplishment of which Jefferson was very proud. Historical pictures and documents are juxtaposed with overly anachronistic cartoon images that do nothing to enhance the information presented in the book. At one point the book even mistakenly identifies a portrait of Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Randolph, as his wife. Though references are included at the end, this kind of error raises questions about the validity of the rest of the historical content in the book. There are few things more disappointing than having a young reader’s excitement about getting to know this giant of early American history dashed by an author who has no passion for her subject. Knowing that there are other biographical accounts of Thomas Jefferson’s life available for young readers, this version is not one that should be selected for a classroom or personal collection.
Clockwork By Phillip Pullman. Illustrated by Leonid Gore.
Just who is the man who walks into the White Horse Tavern…a character from the local storyteller's tale? ...a figure from a dream?... or someone far more sinister... Suspense abounds in this brief, but intricate tale where the characters' dreams and realities that seem so distant at the beginning become intertwined by the end.
Read full review
Clockwork By Phillip Pullman. Illustrated by Leonid Gore. Scholastic, 1996. 111 pages.
Just who is the man who walks into the White Horse Tavern…a character from the local storyteller’s tale? ...a figure from a dream?... or someone far more sinister...
Suspense abounds in this brief, but intricate tale where the characters' dreams and realities that seem so distant at the beginning become intertwined by the end. From the start, Pullman leads the way through different scenes, all the while emphasizing how the decisions made alter the chain of events. In what almost seems like a cautionary tale, flawed characters come to unfortunate ends, while the unlikely heroine, a young girl, proves that love can overcome tragedy. Regardless of the resolution, the pervasive frightening imagery (a young apprentice is stabbed in the throat) and macabre subject matter (reanimated bodies) may make this book too frightening for the younger set. Leonid Gore's misty pen and ink illustrations offer only a glimpse of the nightmarish images that already lurk in the reader's imagination. Young adult readers will enjoy this page-turner as all of the pieces of the story work together just like, well... clockwork.
Revolutionary War on Wednesday By Mary Pope Osborne. Illustrated by Sal Murdocca.
General Washington stands poised on the bank of the Delaware wondering whether or not to continue on towards the battle that will change the course of American history forever. Never fear, time travelers, Jack and Annie, are there to keep history on track in this installment of the Magic Tree House series.
Read full review
Revolutionary War on Wednesday By Mary Pope Osborne. Illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Random House, 2000. 74 pages.
General Washington stands poised on the bank of the Delaware wondering whether or not to continue on towards the battle that will change the course of American history forever. Never fear, time travelers, Jack and Annie, are there to keep history on track in this installment of the Magic Tree House series. Pope recreates this crucial moment in time, turning it into an exciting story for young readers. The short chapters and easy to read font draw readers into this mini-history lesson, disguised as a daring adventure for the young, heroic main characters. Though clearly a fictionalized account of events, readers will remember details of this story when studying the American Revolution in the classroom. The author fleshes out important historical facts in a section at the end of the book. As with all of the books in this series, Osborne mixes fact with a good bit of fiction to create an appealing representation of historical events. Whether new to the series or already a fan, children grades 2 to 5 are sure to find this more engaging than any traditional textbook history. What a revolutionary idea!