Beyond the Red Pen: Meet Cynthia, High School Chemistry


Meet Cynthia, a high school chemistry teacher for Los Angeles. Her favorite teaching accessory is Google Drive (have you ever accidentally saved something?), she stays healthy and hydrated with Korean pears, and how Standards Based Grading elevated her classroom.


What is your current location?
Los Angeles, California

What subject and grade (s) do you teach?
11th grade Chemistry

What is your favorite teaching accessory?
Google Drive. I can easily restore an old version of a file if I accidentally saved over it!


“I saw everything on Google Drive so I can see my activity (what got deleted, what I added) I could share with other chem folk and I can easily search if I want to find a specific PowerPoint or worksheet.

Tips and tricks on making the best “teacher lunch?”
Always pack fruit to quench a dry throat. My favorite fruit is Korean pears.



"I label each bin according to their period. Students automatically turn in the papers into the designated bin."

“I label each bin according to their period. Students automatically turn in the papers into the designated bin.”

What’s your super grading secret?
I have my students grade their assessments right after they take the exam. They know immediately how well they did and which standards to improve on. To keep student accountability, students must fill out a Scantron and the exam sheet. They hand in the Scanton before we start grading so I have their raw answers.

(Editor’s Note: Gradeable is a perfect solution to quickly grade and analyze student results for a faster turnaround time!)

What’s your favorite time to grade and why?
Right after students take the assessments. Students want to know how their assessment affects their grades as soon as possible. I need their assessment data to inform me how to approach the next few lessons. It is a win-win situation.

What is your must have grading tool/utensil?
Snacks (Trader Joe’s White Cheddar Popcorn), Paper Mate Flair, Paper Mate Ink Joy

How do you find grading “zen?”
With other teachers and no students!

What is your super secret tip to grade faster that you wish all teachers knew?
My district uses Data Director, a Scantron scanning system, and quickly grades multiple choice. Whatever technology is available to your school or district, use it your advantage!



How do you get to know your students?
There are some get to know you activities at the beginning of the year but I really get to know them when I ask them individual questions during conversations in the hall way, before class, and after school. I also get to know students by listening into their conversations.

What is one strategy that has worked to increase student motivation?
Switching to standards based grading. Students can easily track their progress. It is easier to articulate what they don’t understand if the standards are split up. In a student’s perspective, it is so hard to understand why they received a low grade on Quiz 2. What exactly was tested on Quiz 2?


“Students retake the same standard multiple times and the scores are recorded so students can track their progress. For example standard 4.7 was tested in 2 quizzes (green) and 2 tests (purple). The first student on there scores 2/4 during the first quiz and first test but by the second quiz and second test, the student got a 4/4.”

What is the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?
Do not grade everything. Only grade items that show individual mastery. Give feedback to other items that lead up to individual mastery but you don’t have to input into the grade book.



Do you have specific teaching shoes? If so, what are they?
Skecher Shape Ups. They look ridiculous but my feet are not sore at the end of the day!

What’s the last thing you bought for your classroom?
Lamination for my students’ photos I post in class. My students work in groups every day. I take pictures of them working together to build the classroom culture.

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