Archive for the 'Teaching – Reflections From the Field' Category

Elizabeth Gulden, 2019 Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year

On April 3, 2019, the College of Education hosted a panel of outstanding educators who have been recognized as Wisconsin Teachers of the Year. Their personal stories, reflections, and words of advice were inspiring and greatly appreciated by our audience. We wanted to introduce them to you, our readers, as well!

a Gulden headshot_16Hi! I’m Elizabeth (Liz) Gulden, a kindergarten teacher at Gordon L. Willson Elementary School (G.L.W.) in Baraboo, and I was named Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year in 2019. Over the past 14 years as a teacher of some of our youngest learners, I motivate and inspire my students’ love of learning by practicing and learning along with them. I am a tireless advocate for young elementary students, ensuring my teaching practices are engaging and developmentally appropriate. And my core, deep-rooted educational philosophy is that learning, above all else, should be FUN!

I actually grew up in Baraboo, and it has been so exciting to come back to my hometown to teach. The timing could not have been more perfect, as I returned just as Baraboo was implementing a full day Kindergarten program and had designed a new Kindergarten Center. My husband and I live in Baraboo, and we take advantage of all that this amazing small town has to offer including: a phenomenal downtown area, the extremely picturesque Devil’s Lake State Park, and of course an annual visit to Circus World Museum. My parents and older brother also live in town still, so my support system here remains strong.

Serving in the field of education is instilled deep within my genes, as my mom is a retired teacher of 47 years. Yes, she taught for 47 years, and most of these years were spent in a third-grade classroom in the Wisconsin Dells School District. Needless to say, I have an amazing role model in her, who I am now fortunate to have serving as a guest substitute teacher for my class of students. Yes, my mom is my kindergarten class’s favorite guest teacher! My dad also loves to pop into our classroom to help us out during Math Workshop whenever he can, and he loves to go on our field trips with us too. I am just so lucky, and I’m sure I’ll never be able to verbalize the impact they have had on me and on all of my students over the years.

Never underestimate the value and power of children at play! Our school playground is nestled within a busy neighborhood community, and after roughly 45 years of use for most of the pieces, it was absolutely time for a safety and equipment upgrade! I set to work championing a Playground Fundraising Committee that took on a multiphase action plan to improve our play space for kids. The committee was comprised of teachers, administration, and parents/community members. Countless hours were spent hosting annual Fun Runs, local restaurant community impact and share nights, book fairs, profitable yearbook sales, and MORE!

In four short years we raised over $75,000, completing our three-phase plan. We no longer have voided areas of our school/community playground, all of the equipment meets safety codes, and there are enough pieces to engage our entire student body (350 students) and the neighborhood children! This is some of the work I am most proud of in my career thus far.

We are still outgrowing our space within our elementary walls, so next on my “passion project” list is the creation of an Outdoor Learning Space for our kids. Our hope is to obtain a grant to construct a mini amphitheater for our G.L.W. students where outdoor learning lessons could take place. The possibilities for the space are endless…reader’s theater performances, teacher read-alouds, local library book talks, Scout meetings, the beginning of a Planting/Growing Club, and more! The benefits of spending time outdoors are substantial: improved mental health, increased cognitive and academic performance, and decreased risk for other health factors.

In 2014 I embarked on my journey to earn my National Board teaching certification. I convinced a colleague to join me in this endeavor, and I was forever grateful to have this support along the way. Saying the process is difficult would be an understatement, but it was also extremely rewarding. Becoming a NBCT taught me so much about myself as an educator through deep reflection, and it made me a much better teacher than I ever thought I could be. My improved teaching practices and strategies had a significant academic impact on my students. The process involved taking a much deeper look at student achievement data, videotaping and analyzing one’s own teaching practices, and a content/teaching strategy-based test.

I have so many favorite educational experiences, some of which were my own experiences and some of which were my students’ experiences. I had absolutely phenomenal student teaching placements in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I am forever indebted to: Deb Bemis (Emerson Elementary), Kathy Shikonya (La Crosse Cathedral), and the entire staff at the UW-La Crosse Campus Childcare Center. These experiences were so rewarding, and I still implement some of the methods I learned even “way back then” into my daily teaching routines.

The kindergarten teachers in our district have completely transformed sight word learning for our students in recent years, improving student reading accuracy scores, and this has been deeply satisfying work. My kindergarten teaching team has increased the number of sight words we teach our students, and we introduce the words using multiple learning modalities. We post the words visually on classroom word walls and also spell each sight word with our bodies, appealing to kinesthetic learners. Each child has a personalized, sight word goal list where he/she is able to track growth in sight word recognition. Whereas students used to master twenty-five sight words within the year, some children are now reading seventy-five to one hundred sight words in the year!

I LOVE creating new dramatic play centers for our classroom. These are so engaging for the kids and incorporate so much academic learning too. Some of the kids’ favorites include our classroom restaurant, grocery store, and vet clinic! It is so fun to watch the kids writing down food orders, adding up grocery bills, and building language skills as they diagnose pet medical “orders” in such authentic learning scenarios. These are some of my most beloved times in our Kindergarten classroom where the kids are involved in imaginative and meaningful play, where the learning is happening almost as if by magic.

 

  We Better Listen to the Kids

Dreamer of Dreams, by Joe Brusky/Overpass Light Brigade. Retrieved from Flickr for Creative Commons use.

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through their blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!By Cynthia Zuñiga

The goal for any teacher is to not only educate their students, but to make sure students are able to use the knowledge we share and apply it to their daily lives. Personally, I strive towards this goal, but I also hope what I teach my students will help them become great citizens and create a stronger society than the one I grew up in. I have only recently learned that the version of history I was taught when I was in elementary and high school was based on half-truths. A lot of the important information in social studies classrooms is sugar coated or swept completely under the rug. This is something that I do not want for my classroom. I want my students to know the real society that they live in, so that they may not be as shocked as I was once they get older.

Thankfully, some teachers are already striving for this social change. They are igniting a flame in their students to take action and create change. A great example of this is the Milwaukee organization called Y.E.S. (Youth Empowered in the Struggle) that was founded through Voces De La Frontera (Voices of the Border). This is an organization that has been connecting with various high schools around the Milwaukee area to create “chapters.” Students learn about the social issues that are occurring within their area and nationwide. They create plans to get the community together in order to help them face these issues that are effecting their families, neighbors, teachers, etc.

As many students realize over time, the society that they live in is not perfect. Through a variety of social studies lessons, they learn the message that nothing in society will change if effort isn’t given. One helpful lesson would be studying the Civil Rights Movement and how the marches on the streets ensured people that their voices were heard. Another example is when Cesar Chavez began a boycott to help the United Farmworkers to make sure that others would realize the difficulties society would have without farmers. History can never changed by just watching on the sidelines; this is what is being taught to the students that are involved in the Y.E.S. program. You can watch this video of the annual May Day march held in Milwaukee. On this day, May 1st, all Latinx, immigrants, and refugees are encouraged to not attend their school, job, or any other responsibility. It is a day to demonstrate what life would be like without these people. It is a day to bring awareness while also gathering the community together.

When students organize and actually “do” social studies, they are able to use their freedom of speech to stand up for their beliefs and make a change. It allows them to apply historical knowledge of how others before them were able to stand their ground and make an impact. In addition, by organizing and attending these marches, the students become aware of social issue events that are happening within their immediate community and nationwide. Their perspectives on different cultures also change because they become more aware that oppression is not only placed on the Latinx and Black communities, but on other groups as well.

* * *

Another example of students engaging in social studies on a national level is the National Walkout, when individual expressed their perspectives on gun laws and human rights. These students, like the Y.E.S. members, studied history and realized it had been repeated over and over, but that there had been little positive change. By participating in the National Walkout, these students took matters into their own hands to make sure that the government knew they were ready to fight for change. One quote that I heard repeatedly during the time of the walkout was “I think we better listen to the kids”; this quote is one hundred percent correct. Our students can change the world, and they are the ones who often have a clearer perspective than most adults.

The students, like those who participated in the walkout, are hungry for change, and they will not be satisfied until justice and reform have been accomplished. By participating activities such as the National Walkout, students are able to “do” social studies; by using their freedom of speech and applying their knowledge of human rights, they are able to learn and connect more about how the government works — specifically on the topic of guns. When students become politically active, they gain a variety of perspectives and then have the ability to branch out and stand up for many human rights issues.

* * *

It is clear that more students are standing up for their rights and using their voice to be heard by those in power. Examples such as these are needed in the classroom when teachers discuss civic and informed action. Students will come to realize that when they see something with which they do not agree, they have the opportunity to educate themselves and fight back. Once students are equipped with that knowledge, teachers can then focus on the Amendments and other laws that protect them when they decide to speak their mind.

Proactive teachers can also use these examples to teach students the reasons why, historically, these groups of people have fought back and demanded change. Engaging in modern day movements can help students reflect back to the civil rights movement, and it can help them understand how minorities are still being neglected and treated poorly. Ultimately, as educators, we must focus our students’ attention on the differences in the lives of those who are privileged and those who are not. We must help them realize that not everyone has the same social, economic and educational opportunities. When they have such understandings, they will be better equipped to enter the real word and make big things occur. The children are our future, and I am ready to listen to what they have to say.

More Than Dates & Names: Because Social Studies Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!

Originally posted on January 8, 2019 on the “This Is Social Studies” Blog

There is social studies all around us, if we we’d just look up from our lecture notes. Black Cat Alley, Milwaukee. © Gibson 2019

By Melissa Gibson

When we begin a semester learning about how to teach social studies, I ask my students about their own K12 experiences. Of course, the students who aspire to be high school social studies teachers are in love with what they are going to teach, and they usually tell me about a history teacher who told great stories, got them to write a million DBQs, or knew everything there was to know about an obscure general in the Civil War. They glow, but I think: Geez, that was EXACTLY what I avoided in high school (when I took AP everything BUT social studies).

The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning.

The elementary education students in class are usually nervous to tell me what they think—I am their social studies professor, after all, and their experiences were not nearly as memorable. With some prodding, I often get: Boring. Memorizing dates and names. Re-enacting Thanksgiving. Textbooks. One or two students will light up with the memory of a teacher who dressed up like historical figures, or orchestrated role play experiences; every once in a while, someone will gush with the memory of a pet research project on Helen Keller or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I then tell them that my goal for our semester together is to transform the way they think about what social studies is and how they can bring it to life when they teach it. We start with the why: Why not just go about business as usual? On the elementary level, it takes very little convincing; after all, they already told me that social studies was boring. When we layer in the causes and repercussions of that boredom—in light of racial inequalities in schools, in light of making schools welcoming for all students, in light of children as citizens, in light of education as empowerment—we start to shift from talking about fun to talking about “reading the word and reading the world,” as Paulo Freire has urged us to do. Secondary education students take a little more convincing; after all, they sit before me preparing to be social studies teachers precisely because they loved their K12 social studies experiences. So we also delve deeply into the socialpolitical, and cultural ramifications of how, historically, we’ve chosen to teach social studies. What does it mean that we have often perpetuated mythology in history class, as James Loewen has shown? What does it mean that the many traditional approaches to social studies lie about race, power, and inequality, as Gloria Ladson-Billings has argued? What does it mean that many civics lessons emphasize compliance and rote memorization rather than social action and public decision-making, that they tell students to let adults do the work instead of helping students become competent civic actors now, as Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia have posited?

• • •

This first issue of This Is Social Studies is a testament to powerful transformations. The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning. In the first set of pieces, “Exploring Social Studies,” you’ll read about students applying what we’ve been learning in class to their own lives and experiences out in the world. In the second set of pieces, “Teaching Social Studies,” students share resources that they’ve either curated or created to enact a critical, inquiry-based social studies in the classroom.

I also want to recommend reading about the journeys of three secondary teachers, who spent a semester deepening their knowledge on a specific topic and then designing a critical, inquiry-based unit around it. Head to these pages to access their fantastic resources for middle and high school teachers:

  • “Why is Milwaukee the most segregated city in America?” Civil Rights & Segregation in Milwaukee by Angela Scavone

 

  • “How do we define Milwaukee?” Geography & Gentrification in Milwaukee by Brigid N

 

  • “How does a society decide what to remember about historical events?” The Civil War by Carrie Sikich

 

  • “Is the Vietnam War over?” The Vietnam War & the Hmong-American community by Madison Laning

• • •

We hope these posts inspire you to transform social studies in your classrooms, too.

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With Katie Syc

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, Katie Syc. Read on to hear more about what she’s been doing since graduation!

My name is Katie Syc, and I grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois; and my parents still live there. My sister and her family live in Rochester, New York. My mom often jokes that my dad and she never really had an interest in math and medicine for their own career, which of course are the two fields that interest me and my sister! Currently, I’m teaching at DePaul College Prep where I teach Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and a Math Intervention Course. In addition to being a teacher at school, I am a monitor of the Young Women’s Leadership Club and coach of the DePaul Prep Track Team.

My favorite educational experience in the College of Education was the NOYCE CO-OP experiences at various schools throughout the Milwaukee area. It was a great experience because the other Noyce Scholars and I had an opportunity to engage and participate in the various practices we learned about in our classes. Instead of just reading about the different theories, we practiced them while discussing our strengths and weaknesses. Starting this process before student teaching gave me more confidence. It also allowed us to engage with administration, social workers, department chairs, and the parent associations which broadened our skills sets to apply later in student teaching and in our careers. This unique opportunity gave us the time to practice our skills and learn from our mistakes right then and there. My participation in the program also allowed for networking and attending various NSF Noyce Programs which allowed us to share and learn different teaching strategies. In addition, by teaching at such various schools, we were also able to get a better sense of the types of schools we would like to teach in after graduating. Looking back at my studies at Marquette in the College of Education, I am so happy I participated in the Noyce Program!

One of my own high school math teachers was my inspiration to become a teacher myself. He was someone who didn’t just teach math, but rather mentored us. He didn’t teach us what to think, but rather how to think. I want to do the same with my own students!

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With TJ Bongiorno

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, TJ Bongiorno.

tjI currently work in Illinois High School District 201 (J. Sterling Morton West High School) teaching sophomore and junior level integrated mathematics courses. I grew up in Brookfield, IL, which is about 20 minutes west of Chicago. I have been married for a little over a year to my high school sweetheart and currently do not have any children. My parents still live in the area and my only sibling – a brother – lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My favorite educational experience has to be the consistency in which my job is different! I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true! Teaching, unlike other professions, gives you a different experience every single day. The changing classes, age groups, etc. gives you an opportunity to impact many different lives in many ways. The Noyce Program allowed me more in classroom experience that definitely helped prepare me for what to expect in my own classroom. Also, the individualized courses that were offered through the Noyce Program were excellent since I was able to spend more time with a professor who was also currently a high school teacher.

In my free time, I love watching and playing baseball and hockey. I have coached baseball at the junior varsity high school level and intend on continuing to do so for as long as I can. If you do work in a school, get involved somehow. Start a club or become sponsor to a club, get students excited about being in school!

I would say my inspiration for my work is my high school math teacher, Mr. Steve Yurek. He was someone who always made (sometimes a boring subject) interesting and fun. He is someone I have kept in contact with in order to grow in my profession.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

 

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With Thess Dobbs

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, Thess Dobbs. Currently teaching at Milwaukee School of Languages, Thess was recently awarded the Edyth Sliffe Award for Distinguished Teaching in Middle School and High School. Read on to hear more about what she’s been doing since graduating!

thessI teach high school math at Milwaukee School of Languages (MSL). At MSL I also lead the math club, which I started in 2014. In this club, we work on more challenging math that goes above and beyond the standard curriculum. Our students have the opportunity to wrestle with challenging competition-level problems and receive guidance to help them build their skills. Through fundraising we make all activities free or low-cost for our students, and we are proud to make these opportunities, often reserved for privileged students at elite schools, accessible to our students. The racial disparities in the STEM fields begin with the inequities in our school systems, and the process to end those disparities must also start with our schools.

Originally, I am from Milwaukee and grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. My dad is a professor, and both my parents placed a strong emphasis on learning. Being a big sister made me a natural teacher. The Noyce Program gave me more hands-on experience than the typical pre-service teacher has. It wasn’t until student teaching that I really had to learn how to manage a classroom, but the relationships built during my field placements helped me maintain my confidence during the hard times later on. Thanks to the amount of time spent in field placements, I also got a good sense of the school culture of a few different schools.

Even though we aren’t in touch as much as we used to be, I feel the bond still exists between the Noyce Scholars in my cohort. All the formative experiences we shared as undergraduates are not easily forgotten. One person who inspires me is my grandma, Leona Sherrod, who passed away three years ago. She taught in public school for eighteen years, and taught for eighteen more years in prisons’ adult education programs. Though she is gone now, I’m glad she got to see me become a teacher too.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Becoming a Social Studies Teacher

This post originally appeared on Dr. Gibson’s Medium page.

mg 1

“painting of man” by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

By Melissa Gibson

The other night, I had an anxiety dream. In it, I was conducting research at an international school on its approach to civic education (you know, part of what I do in real life). My host was a teacher I know well, with whom I’ve worked in Peru. But before I could get started, he said I needed to meet with the principal. I entered her office, where another social studies teacher was waiting; across from us, the principal sat at her large desk, her head slung down while she napped. Worst nightmare of a job interview EVER.

Eventually, the principal jolted awake and leered at both of us. Our college transcripts were in front of her. She inspected each, and then looked at us with disgust: “Why would I hire YOU, either of you, to teach social studies when you do not even have good survey history courses on your university transcript? How can you even pretend to be social studies teachers?!” The other woman, who was clearly interviewing for a teaching job at the school, began to explain how her high school offered a plethora of college-level survey courses, and so when she got to college, she was able to move into advanced history seminars. She showed off her flashy knowledge of dates and names, and then went down a wormhole about some 1800s Navy admiral she was obsessed with. She ended with a summary of her students’ AP scores for the past twenty years. The principal nodded, clearly assuaged.

Then she turned to me. “What about you, little miss interdisciplinary?”
I gulped. I began my usual explanation of what it means to have studied Women’s Studies as an undergraduate, the various social science lenses on the same questions. I showed her on my transcript the “surveys” of sociology, history, literature, political science, but how they were all focused on questions of gender. And as I explained what I had studied, I grew more animated in my explanations of how I study these topics. The principal seemed unimpressed.

Gathering steam, I tried to give a narrative of how I came to this place in my intellectual career: I talked about not seeing myself in the curriculum (or in my classmates) and seeking academic spaces that honored the questions I was asking as legitimate intellectual inquiry. I talked about questioning dominant narratives, and moving back and forth between the various disciplinary cannons and critical theorists and scholars. I talked about my discovery late in life of how thrilling history can be when it is more than a collection of dates and names. I may have shown her the syllabus to my methods courses. I definitely showed her the documentaries and podcasts and blogs that my students have written in my social studies classes.

Eventually, she relented, agreeing that while my training was non-traditional, I clearly knew how to ask questions and get students to do some work (there may have been a tirade about lazy millenials and the ills of technology). She looked about to nod off for a nap again (and I really wanted to ask a snide question about what work she did if she spent so much time napping), so I mustered the courage to ask permission to conduct my research, which she granted. The next thing I knew, the dream had morphed into a murder mystery complete with chupacabras, and instead of conducting research on civic education, I was helping high school students escape some murderous blob-ghost thing, which liked to strike during football games. Also, there were rickshaw rides and a lack of child care for my own children so…definitely an anxiety dream.

School is finally back in full swing here in Milwaukee, and we are hunkering down at Marquette to dig into the meat of our courses. And on the eve of these intellectual journeys, I guess my sub-conscious needed to pause to reflect on what it means to be a scholar of social studies education, especially when one isn’t a traditional social scientist or historian. I talked my own imposter syndrome down in the dream, as evidenced by the principal’s relent, but I woke up aware of that always present feeling of self-doubt. Which, believe it or not, is important for me to hold onto. Not because it’s a valid self-critique but because it reminds me of how my pre-service teachers may feel in my methods courses and in their placements—not quite the real deal. And that self-doubt can be paralyzing. Part of my job as their methods instructor is to help them see the multiple ways that we can become scholars of teaching, and that our most powerful intellectual tools are the questions we ask.

This publication, which we will add to throughout the school year, is a record of their journeys learning to ask good questions. Along the way, they will uncover resources, stories, places, and instruction that just may help you become a better social studies teacher, too—whether this is your first year teaching, or your fortieth.

This is social studies. Not a collection of dates and names, but a way of inquiring about the world. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.


What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter

Archives