This year marks my 24th year in Chicago Public Schools. 9 years as a student of Belding Elementary, 4 as student of Von Steuben High School, and 11 years as a teacher. My first two years in the profession were spent at Belding, working along side many of the people that inspired me to want to become a teacher myself. The last nine years have been spent at Lorca Elementary where I was lucky enough to be a part of since the first day we opened our doors. Since then, I've taught 5th/6th Grade Science, moved to 7th/8th Grade Science, became the Science Department Chair, served on the Instructional Leadership Team, earned my ESL endorsement, coached 7th/8th Grade Boys Basketball, 5th-8th Grade Boys and Girls Cross Country, 7th/8th Grade Girls Floor Hockey, teacher-sponsored 7/8th Grade Student Council, and proudly played my part in making Lorca's first ever 8th Grade Washington D.C. Trip a reality.
In my classroom, students experience personalized learning through a project-based curriculum with a focus on the 4 C's, inquiry skills, and science and engineering practices. This year, 7th/8th grade students will cover a variety of topics from plate motion, phase change, chemical reactions, matter and energy in ecosystems, force and motion, light waves, natural selection, and more. In the 2018/19 school year, I will be implementing Amplify Science into my classroom. Amplify Science was designed to meet 100 percent of the NGSS, and features curriculum units that make use of a rich collection of evidence sources, including digital simulations, engaging media, physical models and more.
Showcasing student work is another emphasis in my classroom. The highlight of having a project-based curriculum is always the end result. Students will spend weeks on some projects, rigorously and creatively displaying their comprehension of a standard or topic in a way that is uniquely individual to their skills, talents, or interests. What better way to celebrate that work than by showcasing in to their peers, parents, younger grade-levels, as well as current and former teachers. Two of my most proud moments in Science class last year came during our How It's Made Showcase in which students selected a product of interest and did a deep dive in the science and engineering behind their product's genius. The other was our Water Charity Challenge in which students presented charities to a board of Lorca staff to gain approval to start a fundraising campaign for their charity.
Last year, our Science Department finished a three year Teacher Leader Partnership program to help Lorca Elementary earn the honor of becoming a Museum of Science and Industry School of Excellence. Our students, hallways, classroom, teachers, and principal were showcased as part of the distinguishment and continue to serve as partners in the alumni program.
Some of the work I'm most proud of is our school's implementation of our Passion Project Program. Every ten weeks, students sign up for an elective course of their choosing and spend the last hour of their day doing something that they are absolutely excited about. The list of topics is student-selected and course offerings have included Junior Chefs, FGL Weekly (our school's weekly news program), Young Filmmakers, Brain Games, Kickboxing, Acrylic Painting, School Play, Young Craftsman, Junior Architects, Fitness, Dance, STEAM Club, Out of Your Mind and more. At the end of every session, our goal is for our students to gain real-world/hands-on experience in their area of interest. As the teacher-sponsor for Junior Chefs and Young Filmmakers, these collaborations have led to partnerships with Pauile Gee's Pizza in Logan Square, Robert Morris University, and Columbia College. This Fall, my maker's space group "Out of Your Mind" will be partnering with both Bit Space and Robert Morris University.
Last summer, I was able to attend a Summer workshop at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research with three fellow teachers from Lorca. We were fortunate enough to spend three days in intensive study in the Conservation Education Lab and two evenings at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, engaging with fellow teachers from around the world, zoo staff members and acquiring invaluable new skills to take back to our own classrooms.