The Teacher’s Academy Celebrates Teachers! June’s Teacher Feature: Lindsey Whalon

Mrs. Lindsey Whalon - June Teacher Feature RecipientIn a sleepy little town outside the bustling metropolis of Philadelphia, PA resides a blue ribbon school with extraordinary teachers and lucky students.  Enter into the 3rd grade class of Mrs. Lindsey Whalon and you will be swept up in the engaging activities and contagious enthusiasm!

When I first stepped into Mrs. Whalon’s class, I took in what her students are welcomed with every day. The room is filled with growing plants, an extensive library, colorful walls, student projects, and even laptop computers.  Her students were working on PowerPoint presentations, researching animals and outlining their presentations. Students were actively incorporating the grammar, spelling

Focus Wall - Teaching Tool

Focus Wall references the current lesson.

and comprehension skills that they learned earlier in the week.

The transition to the current lesson was seamless except for a few disappointed students who did not want to stop working on their presentations…

“Class, Class.” Mrs. Whalon sing-songs a quick attention grabber.

“Yes, Yes,” her students automatically respond and look at her with their full attention, waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

“Find a wiggle spot in 10, 9, 8…”

Her students scatter around the room, quietly but with big smiles in anticipation of the opening activity.  Just in time, her students have found places near friends, about an arms distance away from each other; plenty of room for what was to come.

A “Chillax” video from GoNoodle.com is projected through her computer on the front board.  Her students imitate the goofy dance movements with their arms and legs, quietly giggling and having fun as they work out a little extra energy.  GoNoodle is a website Mrs. Whalon uses to find free brain and sensory activities for her students.  (She is all about frequent “brain breaks” and free stuff for teachers!)

After the “Chillax” activity, Mrs. Whalon directs her students to find a seated spot on the carpet for a quick review of the “Body Parts” unit the students have been learning. As everyone gets settled, up pops another video clip.  This time she uses the popular Brain Pop characters Tim & Moby to explain different functions of body parts with emphasis on the skeletal frame. She stops after each important point in the video to highlight exactly what her students need to know.  Sometimes she asks her students to repeat the information and other times she presents questions for her students to think about, and then respond.

Mrs. Whalon is a tech-savvy teacher but only uses technology when it can enhance the lesson.  When she weaves age-appropriate educational videos into her instruction, her students have a better chance of understanding complex concepts.  Deeper thinking skills are the result when the videos are supplemented by her thought-provoking questions.  Not allowing technology to overwhelm students or take the place of teaching can be a difficult balancing act. Mrs. Whalon uses technology like a tool.  She takes advantage of it only when she knows it will benefit her students.

Only a few minutes have gone by and already the students had a brain-break, review of former concepts and an introduction to new facts they will apply during the hands-on activity forthcoming.  Things are moving right along!

Skeleton Assembly Teaching Tool“Today we are going to be putting together a skeleton in an activity called, Mr. Bones.” She uses her own set of materials to demonstrate the activity, highlighting a few actions to avoid (like, attaching the bones with a fastener before she has a chance to check).  She shows them how they can move the “bones” around to recreate the skeleton. Her students are mesmerized by the demonstration.

“You will be using only a few tools for this activity, your brain, your partner’s brain and your hands and mouths so you can share ideas.  I have one more thing to tell you about this activity…”  She hesitates and watches for all eyes.  Her students are once again captivated.  “I know how fast the quickest 3rd grader got this skeleton assembled.” Guesses from her students begin…

“5 minutes!?”

“2 hours!?”

“Tell us!”

Mrs. Whalon just smiles and says, “I’m not going to tell you until you are all done. I do want to see how fast you can concentrate on doing it correctly.  If it is not correct, you will need to continue to arrange the bones until they are assembled correctly and that will take time.”

Mrs. Whalon's 3rd Grade class assembling Mr. BonesFor 6 years, Mrs. Whalon worked in different schools, different grades levels and of course with a variety of different students. She developed a classroom and time management style that incorporates positive reinforcement and high expectations. She uses subtle corrections and guided questions to keep even her most active students focused.   She redirects off-task behavior and channels hers students’ energy into a productive, engaged learning with ease.  She likes to offer a challenge to her students to keep them engaged in the activities but can gauge when a little extra support is needed.  She is quick to celebrate appropriate behavior and enjoys watching her students learn difficult concepts.

Mrs. Whalon finally found a home and settled comfortably into a 3rd grade inclusion classroom.  As difficult as those years were, Mrs. Whalon used them to build a strong foundation of teaching experiences, and her students are the beneficiaries of those efforts.

As we walk around her classroom together we observe the intensity of her students’ concentration.  Obviously, these kids have had a lot of experience learning how to collaborate on projects. They listen to each other’s recommendations and agree or disagree.  Sometimes they try and fail.  Sometimes they try, succeed and then high-five each other.  The atmosphere is comfortable enough for a friendly competition to ensue between students as the pairs are excited to share their successes with each other.  Mrs. Whalon’s total focus is on project-based learning.  She makes a quick comment to me in between checking the assemblage of several Mr. Bones, “This hands-on Science stuff is so cool.  These kids are learning things I didn’t even get to learn until high school.”

Mrs. Whalon uses the new Foss Science program and admits to trying the activities herself so she has a better understanding of the process.

“I need to know exactly what they will be going through when I give them an activity.  I also want to have an idea of how much time it will take and what problems the kids might encounter.  Last week my husband came home from work and I had body parts spread all over the family room floor.  He just laughed; he is used to my classroom prep projects all over the house.”

Supplies for Crayfish Teaching Lesson

Containers set up for the next hands-on project, crayfish!

Mrs. Whalon circles the room, which is filled with quiet chatter.  Her students are arranging and rearranging bones and using resources to check their own work, before calling on her to check.

“The hands-on stuff is the best.  I think they learn so much more when they are working with their hands on important activities that have purpose and meaning.  I don’t think they would learn as much if they had to read about the bones in a book.”

Again, time was drawing close to recess and Mrs. Whalon gave a signal for the impending transition.  Students were feeling the pressure now!  Raising their hands with all of their might and staring at Mrs. Whalon with such intent, they needed her to see their hard work before it was time to leave, and that’s when it happened.  Mrs. Whalon has high-fived the first pair of students to assemble Mr. Bones correctly.  Now, everyone was double-checking their work, raising their hands and trying so hard to be patient.  She checked the next properly completed Mr. Bones and another high-five is given.  I’m just as curious as the students because I started thinking, did they beat the fastest time?  What was the fastest time?  Ugh!  I had to know!  I had to resist the urge to raise my hand, and just like that, it was time to go.

“Class, Class.” Mrs. Whalon sing-songs the attention grabber.
“Yes, Yes” the students respond.
“It’s time for recess and lunch.  We can continue when we get back.”
Her students rebel…
“Can we skip recess? Pleeeeease?”
Partially Assembled Mr. Bones“I’m so excited that you loved doing this!  But nope, sorry, leave everything where it is and we will continue as soon as we get back.”

Her students line up and walk solemnly past a poor, unfinished Mr. Bones.

While her students were at lunch I spoke candidly with Mrs. Whalon about her teaching career and life outside of school. “My favorite part of teaching is getting to be creative.  I love to take a complex concept and make it relatable to 3rd graders.  It can be quite a challenge but I love doing that for my students.  I love my students.” She adds, warmly.

Mrs. Whalon graduated from St. Joseph’s University and, until recently, was an avid tennis player.  Lately she and her husband have been having fun with their new home repairs, gardening and taking their dog, Reese, hiking.

She loves to spend any extra time she has volunteering to help out her school.  She is on the Writing Committee, the Reading Olympics Coach and has been nominated for school council.  She researches quality, useful resources like Planbook.com, Common Sense Media.org, and her latest find is Symbaloo.com.  (An interactive billboard for students to attach cool stuff they learn from places like National Geographic or Discovery Kids.)

When I asked her about the “school culture” she lit up! “The collaboration between teachers here is amazing.  We love to bounce ideas off of each other and discuss best practices.  Administration is incredibly supportive.  They are this amazingly positive force that offers solutions, guidance and I know they always have my back.  This is such a great school, I am so lucky!” I know a lot of teachers that feel this way. In the end, it is their students who are the lucky ones!

Time just flies when you are with Mrs. Whalon. Before I knew it, my observation day was over. I was in my car and on my way home.  As I was driving, it occurred to me that I never did get a chance to ask her how long it took that fastest kid to assemble Mr. Bones!

Free Resources for Teachers

Hey, Teachers!  Summer is finally here. Those in the outside world think it’s time for teachers to relax and sit by the pool (which you definitely deserve!). At The Teacher’s Academy, we know better. This is the time to refresh your lessons, research new strategies and find great resources. As our gift to the hardest working professionals out there, The Teacher’s Academy has compiled a list of FREE resources that will definitely enhance your arsenal of lesson materials.

Do you want to catch up on education news or get pumped by listening to some motivational speakers?  How about grabbing some new ideas for your old lessons or investigating what career options are available for educators?  Maybe you want to plan an amazing educational field trip with a few of your students next year?  Or, maybe you just want to dream about a vacation without your students!  The following free resources might be just what you’ve been looking forward to all year!

If you are relaxing on a beach in Virginia or by a pool in Texas, check out some free resources the teachers at The Teacher’s Academy gathered for you!
Chill Expeditions.com

At Chill Expeditions.com there is a program for teachers to travel to Costa Rica, Spain, Ecuador, Galapagos and Belize at no cost (here is the catch), as long as they bring along 10 students.  The company creates a specialized itinerary based on your academic goals.  The Eco-classroom expedition interweaves subjects such as biology, ecology, conservation and cultural diversity into the existing curriculum.  Chill Expeditions also helps with fundraising programs and travel arrangements.  This company makes it possible for teachers to share incredible learning experiences with their students.

Teaching Travel.com
Teachers who are not in a position to travel can use this site to read stories about teaching and traveling experiences.  This site uses a question and answer format to fell more connected to the traveling teachers.  There is an E-Newsletter packed with travel tips and experiences, information on travel grants and volunteering abroad.  Teachers can live vicariously through these traveling teachers until they can plan their own travel adventures!

Education Book Reviews
If you are a teacher who has difficulty staying awake when trying to read a book review, this free site is for you.  If you are a teacher who would never bother to read a review before you bought a book, this site is definitely for you!  YouTube has collected thousands of recorded reviews for education books for teachers.  Instead of reading, teachers can listen to a 1-2 minute review of a book before they buy it.  Not all education books are on this site yet but, I promise you’ll be busy searching the ones they have posted.

Common Sense Media.org
Common Sense Media is an all around wonderful resource for families and educators.  Their main goal is to provide “unbiased information, trusted advice and innovative tools” to help them (parents, teachers and policy makers) harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.”  Technology and media is interwoven into our lives so it is important to understand the dangers of explicit material as well as the benefits of educational programs.  Common Sense media also reviews movies, children’s books and provides advice on several topics like cyber bullying and social media safety.  They also support Graphite.org, which is used by The Teacher’s Academy to find new, quality education websites and applications.

The Teaching Channel.org
If you have taken some courses with us you may have noticed a reference to The Teaching Channel.org. The teachers at The Teacher’s Academy LOVE this website.  It is packed full of fantastic posted videos showing different teaching techniques, strategies for classroom management and creative lesson ideas.  Several of our courses send teachers to this website to learn how real schools are coping with changes in education as well as implementing new technologies.  Have fun searching different topics and collecting great information on this website!
Ted Talks
Ted Talks are a great way to get information about any topic, not just education.  Some of the brightest scientists, mathematicians, biologists, entrepreneurs, comedians and kids have graced the Ted Talk stage to inspire millions.  The Teacher’s Academy uses these talks for creating coursework but also enjoys the forum in which the information is presented.  You can watch Ted Talks from anywhere and feel like you are in the audience.  If you are confused or disheartened about a topic, check out Ted Talks for some enlightenment! These talks are also serve as great tools for the classroom.

Education Week’s Top School Jobs
Education Week is a fantastic digital magazine for educators.  In addition to the current information provided to educators, the magazine offers valuable resources for storing resumes and applications as well as building interview skills and job-hunting.

This site lists current, vacant positions in education for schools across the nation.  Easily search by position title, city or state, or key words.  Administrative, business education, specialists, coaching positions are posted as well as teaching.  They offer resources for interviewing and career advancement as well as a place for teachers to save their resumes and applications.  Every month or so, Top School Jobs hosts a free online job fair (Top School Jobs Expo) to connect employers with teachers.  Join the online Expo and explore alternate opportunities in education!

The Library of Congress
The Teacher’s Academy loves this resource so much that we are currently writing a brand new course on the use and navigation of The Library of Congress for Educators. This free resource provides access to thousands of authentic historical photos, recordings, interviews, manuscripts, maps, almost any supplemental material an educator might need. If you go to the Teacher Resources section, you will find lesson plans with links to the supplemental materials within the Library of Congress.  If you get lost in the library, you can even ask a librarian for help!  Take advantage of this amazing resource and keep your eyes peeled for The Teacher’s Academy Library of Congress course to be released soon!

Google for Educators
Google for Education is a free, cloud-based program that teachers can use in the class to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, collaborate and share information.  Teachers can set up their student roster, assignments, grading and collaboration using Google Classroom.  Gmail and Google Calendar can be used for communication and assigning due dates for projects, testing or other activities.  Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are similar to the Microsoft Office Suite: Word, Excel and PowerPoint.   Google Drive is where all of your shared files can be stored and retrieved by students or other teachers.  Google Sites allows students and teachers to set up and launch a class web page without having to know code!   Check out our Suite of Google courses: Google Docs for Educators, Google Sheets for Educators and Google Slides for Educators.  These courses will give you a good idea of how the Google Suite works and you can earn 15 hours of professional development for each of our course!

CK-12 Foundation
STEM Simulations for free!  This website would be really fun to use in class!  Before this website made the cut, we recruited a few young students to check out how user-friendly it was and if they could understand the concepts.  They loved it!  They actually began to discuss complex physics concepts with each other.

You can sign in using Facebook or create and account.  Click on the picture of the concept you want to learn.  Check it out!

My Cute Graphics.com
Free clip art for teachers!  This website contains thousands of adorable clip-art pictures that can be easily downloaded and saved to a computer for later use.  Teachers can customize lesson plans and activities or use the clip art for at home activities.  There are also premium clip art pictures that teachers can buy, starting around $3.  But why buy when they have so many cute ones for free?

The Teacher's Academy The Teacher’s Academy is a company created by teachers for teachers.  We happily provide a service for many teachers who do not have access to professional development.  Our service also benefits teachers who are more comfortable completing their requirements on their own, wherever and whenever it is most convenient.

We are an approved provider Pennsylvania (Act 48), Texas (CPE #902185) and ACSI for our Christian school-teachers across the country.  We provide professional development hours for busy teachers in most states like Oregon, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, parts of New York, etc.   Find your state page on our website to see if your department of education will accept our hours!

Everyone that works for The Teacher’s Academy are certified teachers. Our “Teacher Features” get us into the classrooms of innovative and inspiring teachers so we can share their ideas with the rest of the nation.

We hope you have as much fun checking out these sites as we did, but we really hope you have more fun relishing all that the summer-break has to offer.  Have a great summer, teachers!