We love Cheryl Steighner! As a third grade teacher in in Washington, she provides an excellent vision on how technology can be use to inspire and drive younger learners to be the tech-savvy students of today and tomorrow! We recently asked Cheryl to share with us some of her technology and teaching secrets… and this is result! Enjoy!
Name: Cheryl Steighner
Location: Tacoma, WA
Current job(s): 3rd grade teacher, Camelot Elementary (Federal Way Public Schools)
Current computer: MacBook Pro
Current mobile device(s): iPhone 5, iPad 2, Nexus 7
One word that best describes how you teach or work: Creatively
What apps/software/tools can you not live without?
Google Apps and Google Maps help me streamline and be more efficient throughout my day. I use Apps for just about everything, and I enjoy being able to choose the fastest routes to and from school (this is important when you have a long commute!). I use Dropbox to access files and lesson plans, and Evernote to jot down ideas and keep my anecdotal notes in one spot. I also listen to a lot of music throughout the day and love the variety Spotify can give me.
Other than your phone and computer, what gadget can you not live without?
My VitaMix blender. I like to make smoothies with fresh fruits and veggies as a healthy treat, Using the VitaMix also saves me a lot of time when I’m making my daughter’s baby food.
What is your favorite organizational tip, app or advice?
I try to clean up my workspace every day before I leave and make a list of tasks that need to be accomplished the next morning. I am much more focused when my desk is free of clutte
r, and I like having a “plan of attack” waiting for me so I can use my time wisely. I budget about 10 minutes for each task, which usually keeps my morning “to-do” list around three items. Having a list of only three tasks also helps me balance the fine line between “busy” and “overwhelmed.” Another tip is to keep the mindless stuff, like sharpening pencils and making copies, for the afternoon. Organization and time-management are certainly not my strong suits, but having established routines throughout the day helps me stay on top of things.
What is your workspace/classroom like?
I’ve been in my current classroom for the past 7 years. While I make changes to the layout every year, my foundation remains the same: spaces for books (I have over 3,000 books in our classroom library!), a space for whole group discussion, spaces for independent work, and spaces for collaboration. I use flexible seating options with my students and work with them to make responsible choices for their learning styles. Students love having non-traditional options when working, and I’ve found it helps maintain their focus for longer periods of time. They enjoy being able to sit on yoga balls, stools, lounge-chairs, ottomans, and our mini-couch. Of course, some students like the traditional classroom desk and chair, too. This year, I have added a small maker space where students have access to lots of different types of materials and supplies. Students rotate through as part of our literacy stations. I love to see the creations my students make on a daily basis, as well as see their academic skills improve through their creative endeavors. I like to think that our classroom is a place where active learning, collaboration, and creativity are at the forefront and where kids can have fun.
What is your best time-saving trick?
Do the least-desirable task first. [Editor Note: That’s excellent advice!]
If you had $1,000 to spend on classroom tools and wanted to make the greatest impact on student learning, how would you spend it?
I would create a Maker Space in the school library and stock it with items for students to create, build, and explore. Maker Spaces promote creativity, ingenuity, problem solving, and collaboration (in addition to core academic skills), and allow students opportunities to build resilience and confidence.
What is your favorite avenue to connect with social media?
I gravitate toward Twitter because it is quick, easy, and enables me to connect with a vast network of educators and experts. I like that it provides personalized and informal professional development that is relevant and useful for my personal interests and career. Twitter is just the best!
When you are not living the glamorous work life, what do you like to do in your spare time for fun?
I love spending time with my daughter and husband. We spend a lot of time making music, reading, and enjoy taking walks together with our Boston Terrier. I also play the tuba and like to oom-pah every once in a while.
As a tech-savvy teacher, what everyday thing do you feel you excel with/at versus other teachers/administrators/mentors?
I am a connector and I get great joy from finding resources for others and connecting people with each other.
What is the best teaching advice you have received?
You are enough. Connected educators often get caught up in the “not enough” trap: not “tech-y” enough, not innovative enough, not Tweeting or blogging enough. Teaching is hard work and as long as you are trying your best and staying true to who you are as an educator, you are enough.
What fantastic tech-savvy educator would you like to refer to us?
I would suggest to follow any of the the Google Teacher Academy hashtags on Twitter and I am POSITIVE you will find some amazingly innovative and creative educators. I met some wonderful people doing fantastic work at the Mountain View GTA this past summer. (#GTAMTV)