Teacher of the Week: Kaye Rueschhoff

Inspired by parents who were teachers, 21 year teaching veteran Kaye Rueschhoff has worked relentlessly to bring herself up to speed in the constantly evolving digital world. Kaye recently shared with us some amazing ways she’s integrating coding across content areas, and this week we are honored to feature her as our Teacher of the Week!  Kaye TOW

Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little about your teaching background and how technology has worked its way into what you do?

I am the daughter of retired teachers so education has been a huge part of my life.  I grew up in a small Missouri town where the school was the center of our world.  When I went away to college, teaching was not my first career choice.  However, after many detours and 20 years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Technology has been an evolution for me. Our district became a “bring your own device” school a few years ago and I decided to learn everything I could about the devices and the technology in the world to support them.  I wanted my students to have the most cutting edge information and curriculum support possible, which meant that I had to learn everything I could and very quickly. I have attended every workshop, conference, and professional development opportunity possible in order to make that happen.

 What do you love most about teaching?

I have spent most of my teaching career as a first grade educator.  I love the evolution that happens with 6 and 7 year old children as they learn to read and experience many new things and topics for the first time. The challenge of finding the best way to teach and reach each individual student is one I take very seriously.  I love learning how they learn and then adapting my teaching style in order to ensure their success.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

Coding and computer skills is the world of these students, especially first graders.  They don’t know a world without these devices.  It is very important for them to know how the devices work in order to problem solve how to fix errors and navigate situations when the software or device does not work correctly. Many of the careers and future opportunities for current students have not even been invented yet, but coding and computer science skills will always be an asset for these children.kaye TOW kids

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom?

I have students in my class this year that have parents that don’t speak English at home.  These students struggle with every other subject in school and often feel defeated.  They are smart kids that just don’t get the practice in English needed to keep up with their peers. Coding is something that they are successful with.  They are the leaders and helpers during our computer science time and anytime we are using technology.  This is a universal language that builds self-esteem for these kids and helps them learn in all of the other subject areas.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

My administration supports this type of learning as long as I integrate it with other subject areas and show learning growth.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

I would like to learn to code on my own.  I have started several coding classes, but it requires much more time than I can give.  When I was able to take classes, however, I was a better teacher because it helped me understand some of the foundation behind the coding programs and the language used. For my career, my dream would be to be part of a computer science school in our school district.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

When I am not at school, I am usually in the gym.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?KAYE TOW kid

I want these students to never stop learning. I want them to realize that boredom is a choice and there is always something new to discover.  Even though we can find out most everything we need to know on the internet, there is always something to be gained from human interaction and discussion.  Ideas are powerful and should be used to good.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching?

I love to learn about technology and new gadgets. I LOVE sports and watch football, hockey, and baseball. I am in the gym or Zumba class daily.  Shopping is my sport.

Teacher of the Week: Melika Panneri

Our Teacher of the Week caught our eye in a news feature on the amazing work that she’s doing for The Wilson School. We were lucky enough to catch up with Melika Panneri and learn more about how she took coding from a 6th grade capstone project and built a technology program that prepares younger students for complex projects in later grades.  MELIKA_3-1

What do you love most about teaching?

I love that every day is a new day and there’s always something new to learn. Kids say what they think and that’s refreshing. I love seeing kids figure things out on their own and apply it to life.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

Coding is about challenges and problems and asks for kids to deal with it- it’s not just math and science. Kids grow their tolerance for frustration when they hit a wall and can’t figure something out.  Jobs will eventually need a background in computer science, whether you’re a programmer or not, and exposing kids to coding prepares them for that.

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding at your school?

I started Think Camp this summer and I ran a session on creative coding. I  have never seen kids that excited in my life. We used a variety of coding options and tools, but the entire time kids were excited beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I think if they could have exploded, they would have! IMG_0481

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

Getting other teachers to see the value in it is always challenging and talking about it is not enough. Once people see students learning it and watch me teach they start to understand and want to be a part of it. I have an ELA teacher who works with me to integrate ELA with coding. We did a coding project with 5th graders on explaining idioms to the world. An example was the idiom, “you crack me up.” A student created this scence, with an egg cracking and laughing, and he coded every bit himself. It’s a challenge showing that coding is not just science or math.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

I’d like to get into more complicated possibilities for 5th and 6th graders. I learn a little bit more every year, and if I keep l learning I’ll be able to help kids dive deeper. I started them in 2nd grade and now they’re coming in with projects they’ve made over the weekend, things they have built over the summer. They want more and I want to be able to teach them and learn from them.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

I’ve learned to get a little better at saying no when I’ve hit my limits.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?

To have the opportunity to have that crazy joyful moment where they’ve figured out what works best for them to learn. Learning how to learn, and being excited about learning.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching? montavalo

I love to travel when we have the time. My final student teaching was in Australia, and that was incredible. We like to go to New York City and San Francisco when we can.  I also love graphic design and real estate.

Thank you, Melika, for sharing your experiences and perspective with us!

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McKinna Elementary: Anne Jenks and Letty Batista

This week’s feature is an example of how collaboration and teamwork can set the tone for innovation and success. We are honored to introduce you to Principal Anne Jenks and Kindergarten teacher Letty Batista, both of McKinna Elementary in Oxnard, California.

Can you tell us about your path to becoming a school leader? anne jenks tow

Anne: I’ve been in education for about 22 years; I taught for 13 before becoming an administrator.  Teaching was a second career for me, I never dreamed of being a teacher until I started tutoring a 15 year old boy through Project Literacy. I went back to school while working full time, and got a teaching job mmediately. From there, I went back for my  Masters and became an administrator. I came to McKinna in July of 2007.

How did you begin to integrate technology into the work you’re doing at McKinna?

Anne: We started doing weekly raffles for students who were following school expectations- I had a 6th grade girl win an iPod, and she didn’t know what it was or what to do with it. I knew we had to start integrating more technology for our students. We started with the Hour of Code and not everyone could see the value of it right away. I met with teachers and told them, “I’m asking you to do this for one week, as little as 20 minutes a day.” When they did it, they saw the engagement, the resilience in students, and they were on board.

How did McKinna go from the Hour of Code to teaching coding daily? Letty TOW

Letty: Ms. Jenks came to me and told me the Hour of Code was coming up. She gave me the iPads and said, “I’m asking you to do 1 hour of coding with the Hour of Code.” I immediately saw fascination in my students, the kind of joy that we try  so hard to teach kids. It completely blew me away. After that, I asked Ms. Jenks if I could continue to teach coding and use Kodable with my class. I teach a bilingual class, and many of my students speak indigenous languages— we have so many standards to cover and so little time. I asked Ms. Jenks if I could adjust my schedule by shifting my calendar time to later in the day and she was supportive. The schedule shift allowed me to start getting coding time in daily.

How did you develop your instruction off-screen as you began teaching coding beyond the hour of code?

Letty: We were just getting started and learning together in the first year. The next year, I signed myself up for an Hour of Code workshop and I started teaching coding with unplugged activities. I needed to start on the right path to help them understand coding and how we can use it for math, reading, writing, storytelling, playing with blocks, etc. I started teaching coding with a curriculum and immediately noticed that children started practicing communicating in English naturally. Coding helps develop ESL students’ verbal skills and has improved students’ confidence.

What are you coding goals for the school?

Anne: I would like everyone to agree to 1 hour of coding a week, but I understand the time crunch that exists. I feel that coding is something that teaches “soft skills”- resilience, collaboration, the skills that are embedded in the Common Core. These make the learning more exciting and more relevant. Coding spills over into all of the subject areas and that is the value in it.

How are teachers supported as they get started with teaching programming?

Letty: Ms. Jenks and I present a lot for staff,  and there’s a lot of communication around what we’re doing. All of our kindergarten teachers kind of set the pace for everyone else. Our first graders come in already knowing so much, the first grade teachers have their gamefaces on and are ready when their new students come in. We have an after school coding club and we are hoping to start doing monthly events with students and families, especially in the upper grades.

What advice do you have for schools wanting to get started with coding?

Anne: You should begin with the Hour of Code in December, it’s a  great starting place to introduce teachers to coding. Teacher buy-in is absolutely vital. With everyone trying to wrap their head around the Common Core, asking for one week of something new seems doable. It’s one hour, there are options. The Hour of Code is a great starting point. kodable kids

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Teacher of the Week: Polly Meissner

Watch Froz-N-Code, inspired by Polly!
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Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your teaching background? 

I work with 8 elementary schools doing coding and programming as a Media Specialist. I get to work two full days a week at Loess Hills Elementary, which never feels like enough time. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught library in different capacities. I did 1:1 computers at the high school level and got “the tech bug.” We started a student help desk and trained students to repair computers for each other. Now, Loess Hills is going 1:1, and the high school students are working on the computers and bringing them to the elementary school kids.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love seeing kids “get it.” That look on their face when something becomes meaningful; a connection to the world, the class, or to each other. I see it a lot with coding- when one student gets it and they want to show someone else. It’s amazing to see them buy into it, feel proud, even be a little amazed with themselves. I often see it in coding with the kids who struggle a little more, and it’s such an eye opener for the students who typically get everything right away. It’s a huge boost of self esteem for kids who aren’t always in the position to be the “go to” person for help from their classmates.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

It teaches so many problem solving skills and kids see that there are multiple ways to do things. Students start learning that we can do things differently and recognize that they can use their own skills to come up with a plan and make it happen. Our kids are maybe missing that in other areas. Technology promotes collaboration to solve problems and teamwork.

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom?

I worked with a small group of 2nd graders last year and we had a student arrive from another country and was very far behind. Building a relationship with her through working on coding together and solving problems really helped her progress. Coding helped us build a relationship,  give her self confidence, and help her adjust. That’s what I love about kids and coding- they know that a mistake just means try again; it’s okay to try a few times.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

Our story is interesting because we started with a cohort of teachers (1 in each grade grade) bringing coding into the classroom. Scheduling was probably the biggest challenge; I travel and can only be at Loess Hills two days a week. I want to be able get into the classrooms more, time is always a challenge.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructorPolly Meissner TOW

I want to be the Kodable guru that everyone can go to!  I want to learn every part of the program, so I need to make time go through it all myself. Coding doesn’t come that easy to me,  and I want to learn everything about what you guys are designing so I can help my teachers get it into their classrooms.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

I love to read. I have three daughters, but I try to take 30 minutes a day for uninterrupted alone time. Sometimes it’s listening to a book in my car during my commute; I love getting taken away into a story for a bit.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?

To become a lifelong learner. It scares me how many adults just focus on work and life and stop learning. You have to be willing to reevaluate your work and make changes. Ask yourself, “How can I make myself better?” Always keep learning, don’t get stuck in a debilitating rut.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching? 

I have four kids, and we live on a farm. My daughters raise their own cattle and our family does the fair circuit. We enjoy the farm life activities; I like to leave the city and get to go home to my family on the farm.

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