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Teacher Feature: Mr. Heisey

Teacher Feature: John Heisey

 “Teaching lets me be creative. Most people spend their jobs completing tasks for other people, but I have autonomy to make it as interesting as I want. It never gets dull.” mr heisey

-John Heisey

Creativity has proven to be a key component of brain development as well as an essential tool in building confidence and acquiring strong social skills.  Creative people tend to embrace challenges, learn from mistakes and use their imaginations to better their lives. Unfortunately for some students, room for creativity in education often decreases in the older grades. For a lucky few, creativity is alive and well…

Want to get your students’ creative juices flowing again? Check out how a 7th grade Social Studies teacher fosters creativity in his high-tech (almost paperless) classroom.

Mr. John Heisey, our May Teacher Feature and middle school super hero, has given his students the tools, the time and the freedom to be creative.  Yes, I said he gives his students TIME and FREEDOM to be CREATIVE.

This Penn State graduate has an impressive toolbox of secret weapons that he uses to create the optimal learning environment for his students. For starters, he holds dual certification in secondary English and Social Studies Education, as well as a third degree in Communications.

His remarkable knowledge of technology has led him to become the technology integration coach for his school. Besides his impressive educational achievements, he is also a skilled outdoors man. He hikes, fly fishes, runs marathons and coaches 7th grade baseball at his middle school.

Finally, he has a fundamental belief in the importance of finding new ways to keep his students motivated. Mr. Heisey promotes independence in learning, conquers stagnation in education and fosters creativity.  And, he does all this without even wearing a cape!

Developing Creative Learners in a Blended Environment

In today’s lesson, Mr. Heisey uploads a picture of a rubric using Microsoft® One Note® and a Smartboard®. His students begin discussing the different requirements of a project for which they are about to be introduced. The rubric will provide guidance to students for the duration of the project.

“Today you are going to begin writing your own piece of historical fiction. According to this rubric, what does your story need to include?”

Quickly the classroom transforms into a round-table discussion of ideas and solutions to crafting the perfect writing pieces. His students’ proficiency in Middle-Age history is evident heisley classas they begin to discuss specific events and influential people.

Mr. Heisey emphasizes a critical part of the project that encompasses the entire rubric. “I want you to show the readers of your story the Middle-Ages, include elements of the stories we’ve read and most importantly: Have fun and be creative!”

Putting the Imagination to Work

Next, Mr. Heisey passes out completed stories for his students to peruse.

“Here are some examples of stories written by former students.  Take a few minutes to read through and critique these stories,” he instructs.

After about 5 or 6 minutes pass, the emergence of quiet conversations among the inspiring writers queues the next discussion…

“So what do you think?” Mr. Heisey interjects.

A few random answers are called out:

“I really like how this writer used details about the Plague and the Mongol attack, but there were a few spelling mistakes.”

“I think this writer got the history wrong.”

“Good.” Mr. Heisey responds. “Remember to get your history correct when you write your stories and be careful of spelling and grammar mistakes, because that can make your story more difficult to read.”

We are only about 15 minutes into the class period when Mr. Heisey provides one more support for his budding writers.

“Just in case a few of you are still stuck on how to get your story started, take a look at the screen.”Character List

Interactive settings for a Middle-Ages story are projected using the Smartboard.  Mr. Heisey and his students have fun discussing a variety of opening scenes, protagonist characters and potential conflicts.

Throughout the class period, students have access to the digital story supports along with settingsa host of other available resources. Websites, previous class projects, text and library books, maps, story samples, magazines and fellow classmates are just a few of the resources available.

“Everyone take a few seconds to meet with your partner and discuss your story idea.”

The classroom becomes a flurry of activity. Students are up and moving about, discussing ideas and talking about the different resources they may find to be helpful. Without changing the activity level of the classroom, Mr. Heisey gives his students the go ahead to start writing.  He gives no direction to “sit” or “quiet down.” His students are free to access all the resources provided during class, and like all good writers, they do.

All of this “pre-writing” activity may seem a bit unnerving to teachers who are not used to giving this kind of Slide1freedom to their students.

I asked Mr. Heisey about the effectiveness of this type of activity.

“Student motivation is a never-ending challenge in education, and allowing for creativity is one of the best ways around that challenge. Historical fiction, documentaries, political propaganda – these are great ways to get students to show what they know.”

Slide2Sure enough, one by one, the students begin to settle into their chairs and the clacking sounds of the keyboard overtake the tactical discussions from a few moments earlier.

The previous buzz of the classroom has settled into a focused calm. I watch as Mr. Heisey provides support when needed.  He is careful not to take away from his students’ own creative thoughts by providing too much direction.

As I observe his students working, it suddenly strikes me that I am in a Social Studies class! This whole time, the students were actually learning about the Middle Ages. I have to smile as I look around the room at these poor unsuspecting students who have just been bamboozled into learning lots of content, while being given the opportunity to grow creatively.

Integrating Curriculum

“How important is it to incorporate reading and writing into your Social Studies class?”  I ask.

“The line between history and English is a blurry one.  Understanding literature means understanding the context in which it was written, and nobody can understand a time period without seeing art and literature that came out of it.  The cognitive processes – analysis and critical thinking – overlap in the two disciplines as well.  I really approach my classes much more like a general humanities class than strictly a history class.”

Producing Lasting Results

Quietly wandering around the room, I am able to get a glimpse of the writing being produced by these students. Some students are creating outlines, some have sketched a few pictures in what resembles a comic strip, others are developing characters by researching names and living conditions. Once in a while, a student will use the digital story-starters for additional inspiration, while others are typing emphatically to get the story out of their head and onto the screen, before they lose any important parts.heisey desk

It occurs to me that they are using the same skills used by professional writers. These 7th graders have a solid set of writing, research and communication skills as well as an in-depth knowledge of the 13th and 14th centuries. To say these students are getting prepared for college and career is an understatement!

I happen to notice one girl staring at the screen in front of her – possibly a little lost?  “Are you having fun writing?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m not writing. I’m creating a story.” She smiles and begins typing again.

His students are not writers – they are creators of stories. #Superhero.

Thank you, Mr. Heisey!

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide thousands of teachers with a convenient, affordable  place to earn professional development credits.  Check out our course catalog to find the right course for you!

 

Top 10 Summer Reading List for Teachers

Hey Teachers, This one’s for YOU!

Every year my district releases the summer reading list for students. As a parent, I really appreciate how the books are screened, reviewed and rated. And as for my kids… Luckily, today’s book selection is way better than when I was young! They have enough entertaining reading options to last all summer. I, on the other hand, do not! Where are the book suggestions for teachers? Never fear, the Teacher’s Academy has got you covered. At the Teacher’s Academy, we know what teachers want (because we ARE teachers): Books that are entertaining, informative and make an impact. And it wouldn’t hurt if these books slipped in a little professional development!

The Teacher’s Academy chose 10 amazing professional development books that teachers will love to read this summer. These books will have teachers reflecting on their school year, recharging their batteries and planning new ways of inspiring their students.

So, if you are heading to the southern, sunny ranches in Texas, the northern adventures in Oregon, the east coast shores of New Jersey, or any of the fabulous cities in between, grab a great book for the trip and relax while you revive your passion for teaching!

10. CreaBookCreativeSchoolstive Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson, PHD

It is time to change our outdated factory model of education for a more effective, creative design. Ken Robinson offers ideas on creating a student-centered approach to learning and eliminating the burden of standardized testing. You will enjoy his wit and humor too!

BookWhisperer9. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller and Jeff Anderson

Gather some ideas from a teacher who throws out traditional reading strategies and uses her students’ interests to nurture a love of reading. Donalyn shares her own teaching journey down a crooked path of trials, failures and finally, an awakening. She includes a recommended list of books for parents and teachers too!

8. Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Key to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley

Donalyn Miller continues her teaching journey in the “Wild” by offering strategies on how to nurture of love of reading in your own students. This book is packed with management tools, lesson plans and assessment ideas.  Teachers can continue to improve their reading programs by doing more than just putting great books in the hands of their students.

BookStratospsphere7. Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge by Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan believes teachers can escape from the traditional content-based curriculum and embrace the high-tech changes to develop higher-order thinking skills. He offers ideas on how to make these changes a reality for classrooms across the country.

BookMakeitStick6. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel

Recent studies on how our memories work have shaped new strategies for teaching. Maybe using personal learning styles is not as effective as using more complex methods? Maybe cramming, underlining and highlighting are not effective study habits? Check out this very new teaching concept that uses activities like forgetting, self-testing and multifaceted learning, to build strong memories.

 BookUnshakable5. UnShakable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching everyday…No Matter What by Angela Watson

This collection of inspiring ideas will have you loving teaching again! Teachers spend so much time finding ways to develop that intrinsic motivation in their students – this book is a guide for teachers to find and develop their own intrinsic motivation, everyday.

BookLearnLikePirate4. Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz

This book is packed with ideas for teachers to employ in their classrooms! Here are just a few strategies teachers will learn: craft relevant (and interesting) lessons, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate leadership, instill confidence in your students, develop a sense of curiosity. The focus is on improving the whole child – not grades, Argh! Feel like a pirate now?

BookMindfulTeaching3. Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone who Teaches Anything by Debora Schoeberlein David with Suki Sheth, Phd.

This book talks about the positive effects of applying mindful practices in the classroom and offers strategies for implementing those practices. The Teacher’s Academy has a course called, Mindfulness in Education so no need to continue to express how much we love this one!

 BookTeachKidstoThink2. Teaching kids to think: Raising Confident, Independent & Thoughtful Children in an age of Instant Gratification by Darlene Sweetland, Phd and Ron Stolberg, Phd.

This book does double duty as a book for educators or parents. Many of our kids and students need instant feedback, instant answers, instant information and they can easily get it by doing a simple search on the Internet. How is this instant gratification affecting their minds? How do we teach patience and self-reliance?  This book has all the answers – but you’ll have to read through it, slowly. 🙂

BookFTest1. F This Test: Even more of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson

Oh my gosh, every teacher must read this book… It’s hilarious! Sick of testing your kids? Well, they’re sick of it too! See the honest and hysterical responses kids write on their tests.

The summer is not only a great time for teachers to catch up on reading, but also to get started (or finish up) those pesky professional development requirements. The Teacher’s Academy is created by teachers and we know how time consuming all of that continuing education can be. Check out our online courses and you’ll see how cost-effective, relevant and convenient professional development can be.

The Teacher’s Academy is the proud parent company of Act 48 Academy. We provide Act 48 Hours for PA teachers and professional development hours for teachers across the USA including Texas, Colorado, Oregon, and much more!. Check out our Online Course Catalog for the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development courses, created by teachers for teachers.

Click, Find Your State for specific details on professional development from your department of education.

Have a great summer, teachers!

 

Welcome Spring Fever Enthusiasm into your Classroom

Do your students have spring fever?  Here are 15 creative ways to use that extra energy in the classroom.

This time of year the earth is alive with bright splashes of color and exuberant sounds.  All around this great country from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Bend, Oregon and all the wonderful districts in between, students and teachers have Spring Fever! The excitement outdoors, along with warmer temperatures and the promise of summer vacation, can make it difficult for students to concentrate on classroom activities.  But, lessons need not on037ly occur through textbooks and worksheets.

Real learning should be as dynamic and changing as the seasons.  Instead of allowing spring fever to disrupt your classroom, use all that extra enthusiasm to spark some new discoveries, both indoors and out.

Get a Fresh Start!

Sometimes the best way to get students inspired is to make an adjustment in the environment.  Spring is the perfect time to do a thorough cleaning and re-organization of your classroom.  Check out these websites to find some innovative ways to cut down on classroom clutter and focus on learning.

1. We Are Teachers

This site has a great blog that offers ways to conquer classroom messes, help students keep track of their homework, create storage with items you already have, find tips of creating digital student portfolios and more!

2. Betterlesson.com– Kaleidoscope Eyes Lesson

If spring cleaning and a fresh new approach isn’t enough to keep students’ enthusiasm in the classroom, perhaps a change in perspective will do the trick.   This 8th grade math lesson posted by Mauricio Beltre incorporates materials from the dollar store, but we recommend finding some free replacements in nature! Your students will really get excited to experience a bright, hcolorful, shape-shifting view of the world around them while sneaking in some important math concepts like symmetry, reflection, and geometry.

3. Read Write, Think

This is a great time to freshen up your lesson plan catalog. What better place than a website that provides free lesson plans written by literary experts? Try this one: Multiple Perspectives: Critical Thinking Skills by Shannon Bradford! This gem helps students understand how the world can look through very different through different eyes. After reading Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin, students will analyze the different perspectives and write a creative piece capturing another point of view. This lesson is filled with opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure to aid the analysis and creative writing piece.

Bust a move!

Even with an organized classroom and a new perspective, students may still be reluctant to stay at their desks this time of year. So, get them up and moving!  Here are some sites designed to give your kids a “brain break” and get them re-energized to learn.

4. Minds in BloGroup Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Togetherom

This site made our list for two reasons: (1) Their slogan is, “Because Learning should be Fun,” AND (2) They have a host of great resources for teachers that need a quick infusion of creativity and motivational push to get them through the last few months of the year. Check out their blog, 20 three-minute Brain Breaks by Rachel Lynette for a few fun short games that get your kids moving and focused.

5. TeachTrainLove.com

Bevin K. Reinen’s website is devoted to innovative teaching tips and online resources for teachers and students. We want to feature their blog on 20 best brain-break videos. Bookmark these videos and have them on hand for the moment your students need help to fight their fidgeting!

6. GoNoodle

We can’t overlook the leader in brain-break websites. Students of all ages (though geared towards elementary) will love the goofy custom-made videos designed to keep students moving, track their progress and quickly get them back to learning.

Go outside!

No matter how energized and inspirational your classroom is, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, kids will long to be outdoors.  So…. Take them out! And, bring your lesson plans with you.

7. The National Wildlife Federation Lesson Plan Page

This site is not just devoted to preserving our nation’s habitat, but educating our nation’s youth as well.   Featured lessons include, Habitat Hunt, Sensory Discovery Walk, and Tree Detective. All Science lessons are designed for grades K-8 and are aligned to the National Science Education Standards.

8. Geoec.orgGarden 4

The Global, Environmental, & Outdoor Education Council also offer some fun and engaging lessons for outdoor learning. Check out their lesson plan section, organized by grade, make a quick print and get your students outside tomorrow!

9. The Teacher’s Academy- Creating a School Garden Course

School gardens are all the rage, but finding the resources, getting support, planning and executing such a task is difficult to take on by yourself. If you need professional development and are interested in proposing a school garden to your school, this course is an excellent option. Learn how to plan, implement and teach with a garden to provide authentic learning in your unique space.

10. Growing Minds, Farm to School

Spring is the perfect time for experimentation and observation in nature’s greatest gift: our farms. For those of you that already have a school garden or access to local farms, check out this site and browse the many lessons on integrating farming and gardening into the classroom.

Learn about transformations!

Spring is a time for change. It makes sense since it happens after about 7 months of school, everyone is ready for a change! Since change is happening naturally all around us Monarch with caterpillarthis time of year, it’s easy to integrate the concept of metamorphosis into the spring science curriculum. Here are three websites that offer great lessons on the classic metamorphosis concepts:

11. ScienceNetLinks.com/lessons

This site provides teachers with background information, planning ahead tips, motivation, content, hands-on activities and varied assessment options for the classic lesson, Parts of a Plant.

12. USDA Monarch Education Site

Lessons on metamorphosis aren’t just for 3rd graders! The USDA has lessons and resources to discuss life cycle changes for all levels K-12. Science teachers, use this site for the best Monarch Butterfly lesson this spring!

Stare out the window…Seriously!

The weather in the springtime can be unpredictable.  Clear days are the perfect time to introduce lessons about the sun and solar energy.  But, even rainy days can provide learning opportunities. NASA has created some incredible lesson plans about precipitation, 147climate, and weather.  But our honorable mention in this list goes to…

13. WeatherWizKids

On days when your kids are particularly restless, use this site to find loads of amazing weather information, projects, and lesson plans.

Take a break!

Even with all that extra springtime energy, your students will still need to take some time to relax and reflect. Wait for a rainy spring day and hold an impromptu Read-In! h

14. A Mighty Girl

This adorable site is a massive book organizer. They even have a section dedicated to celebrating spring! Don’t let the sweet vibe fool you, books for students of all ages are recommended and available for purchase.

15. YALSA

This site is designed for young adult readers. Check out the list of recommended books and suggest a few for your students to start over spring break! (Yeah, right!)! In any case, it’s a great resource for parents looking to get that perfect book for their growing student.

 

Look forward to summer!Garden 3

Even as we celebrate spring, we are looking forward to summer vacation and the extra time that it brings.  Summer is a great time to catch up on those necessary Professional Development courses that you have been putting off all year.  The Teacher’s Academy is a convenient, affordable way to obtain the credits you need in a way that won’t put a damper on your summer fun.  Our classes can be completed wherever your summer plans take you!  Check out our online catalog today to find an extensive list of Act 48 approved courses to handle your professional development needs at your convenience.