Meet Heather, a 6th grade science and engineering teacher in Las Vegas, NV. Learn more about why she prefers the color purple when grading, what emergency food is best for the busy teacher, and why teachers should always take time for themselves.
What is your current location?
I work at Von Tobel Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada which is an inner city school with a diverse demographic.
What subject and grade (s) do you teach?
I teach sixth grade life science and an environmental science elective which is part of the Gateway to Technology program to seventh and eighth grade students.
What is your favorite teaching accessory?
My pens. I like anything that can bring color to the classroom whether it is my grading pens or my dry erase markers. A good cup of coffee always helps.
Tips and tricks on making the best “teacher lunch?”
I like anything that allows me to eat at my desk or I can take with me on the run. I love using bagels to add some variety to a boring sandwich. I can always have a simple bagel and cream cheese to making it into an interesting sandwich with turkey lettuce and tomato. Also, I try to stash an extra soup bowl in my classroom just in case I forget my lunch or I am running late. Take off the lid, heat it up and you are ready to go!
What’s your favorite time to grade and why?
My favorite time to grade is on a weekend morning. It is quiet and I am away from the distractions of my classroom.
What is your must have grading tool/utensil?
My favorite is the Paper Mate Flair felt tip pen. Typically, I use purple. It is a relaxing color and so many of my students love that color! I will vary the colors I use a bit just so it does not get boring. I do avoid red because my students hate it.
How do you find grading “zen?”
I love having music or a movie playing in the background. I usually choose the 80’s stuff because it is upbeat especially the 80’s movies with a cheesy soundtrack. Keeps me going!
What is your super secret tip to grade faster that you wish all teachers knew?
Do not feel like you have to grade every single thing. It is fine to just give a simple “check” for participation. Be thoughtful about what you choose to grade. This leads to better feedback because you are not drained on feeling like you have to grade everything.
What is one strategy that has worked to increase student motivation?
I love using Edmodo because it allows me to build relationships with the students outside of the classroom. When the students see that I am responding to their questions or assignments outside of school time, I find that they are more invested in learning and builds their motivation. I love using my excitement for learning to build their enthusiasm.
What is the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?
Sometimes, you just need to leave somethings at school which I received during my student teaching experience years ago. Teaching can take over your life whether it is emotional or the professional commitments. To be the best for your students, you need to take time for yourself.
Do you have specific teaching shoes? If so, what are they?
I have a variety of shoes I like to wear. Naturalizer and Rockport have shoes that are comfortable and go with a variety of outfit choices.
What’s the last thing you bought for your classroom?
Snacks. My class is taking the state tests so I like to have some healthy snack for the students to get through the long testing.