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Finding My Voice

Representing Clay County has been one of the greatest honors of my career. Within days of receiving this recognition, several people said, "You've got a voice in education now, use it!" I realized I was standing on this platform, speechless. How could I advocate for my students, colleagues, and school district if I didn't have anything to say? This was the beginning of my journey of YES. I knew, to find my voice, I had to march through every door this opportunity opened for me, embracing the growth mindset I try to nurture in each of my students.

When I was asked (volun-told, if you want to get technical) to develop a presentation for the Clay Connected Conference, I recognized an innate connection between my two passions, STEM and Growth Mindset. This is where everything fell into place. Facilitating STEM challenges with kindergarten and first grade students over the last several years illustrated the importance of providing young learners with genuine opportunities to struggle and persevere to build confidence and critical thinking skills.

After developing and sharing a presentation about STEM and Growth Mindset called Minute to STEM it, I was invited to write Using STEM to Create Growth Mindset Opportunities for the Just for Teachers Newsletter published by the Florida Department of Education. Which led me to collaborating on a professional development video with Robin Bossinger, Clay County's Online Learning Specialist.

Commissioner Pam Stewart challenged us to impact student learning beyond the four walls of our own classroom and somewhere along the way, I found my voice, advocated for the implementation of STEM in primary classrooms, and met incredible people that have helped me expand my platform to advocate for student learning.

Being a District Teacher of the Year continues to be a humbling and empowering experience.

Click here to access materials for challenges featured in the video

Learn more about implementing STEM with the following resources!

Click here for the STEM Starter Kit
Click here to Bob for Apples

Check out my TPT store to see even more STEM resources!

Raise the Bar!

This summer I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Diane McKee, 2016 Florida Teacher of the Year! We had gotten to know each other through a platform she created for all Florida District Teachers of the Year. At the State Roundtable, she shared with us how she "raises the bar" with her students!

Each year she hangs this red bar in her classroom. As her students enter they tap it to remind themselves that their dreams are within their reach. She shared with us how this bar became a symbol of motivation for her students. She watched them set down a pencil in frustration, glance at the bar, and find it within themselves to pick that pencil up and dig deep.

This red bar helped Diane create a culture of perseverance. Students came to believe that they were capable of doing rigorous work to success. This growth mindset, combined with an incredible amount of love and dedication, led her students to achieve top scores in the District and State.

When Diane won Florida Teacher of the Year, her father told her he would help her make as many red bars as she needed. {Parents are so generous in those proud moments} When it came time to give her final speech to the next group of District TOY's, that's just what he did. Diane gifted us with both this incredible story and a red bar to hang in our classrooms to help us inspire our students to reach far enough to do their best work each day!

I was so inspired by this story and I truly wanted thank the faculty at my school for first giving me the opportunity to represent our sweet school and go on to become Teacher of the Year for the entire District. I also wanted to find a way to share this incredible experience with them. When I returned to Jacksonville, my parents volunteered to help me create the same gift for my faculty. We spent the last few weeks of the summer cutting, drilling, sanding, painting, and stringing red bars for every classroom in my school.

Students tap the bar walking into class each morning.
Since sharing Diane's story with the teachers at my school I've watched this idea grow and touch teachers in other schools and other districts. It's incredible to see such an inspiring idea motivate teachers and children beyond your own personal reach!

Thank you Diane, for inspiring us all to "Raise the Bar!"

Poster created by a kindergarten teacher to explain the purpose of the bar!

Students tap the bar walking into Media each day!

STEM-tember: Tinker Tubs

Welcome to day four of STEM-tember! Today we're going to talk about how to incorporate STEM activities into your daily routines!

With STEM/STEAM/STREAM taking off in primary classrooms across the country, Tinkering Trays, STEM boxes (bins, sticks, and bags), Makerspaces and the like are growing in popularity as teachers ask themselves "How can I integrate STEM into my classroom?"

Minute to STEM it Tinker Tubs were born out of a desire to give my students more access to STEM materials and activities. For the past 3 years I've been collecting resources through Donors Choose projects, Hall Malls/Free Table in the Teacher Lounge, and finding ways to use common classroom materials to challenge my students. Last year I stored these challenges in plastic shoe bins and used them in a STEM Writing center. Recently, I got a very generous donation of pencil boxes and decided to create Tinker Tubs for daily use!

When my students finish packing up each day they choose a Tinker Tub and use the materials inside to complete the challenge cards that are in the tub. Tinker Tubs are great for indoor recess, early finishers, behavior incentives, STEM writing centers, science centers, morning work, Fun Friday, and just about any other way you could think to incorporate them!

In this pack you will find box labels, challenge cards, reflection questions, and a STEM recording page that will help walk your students through the Engineering Design Process. I'd recommend storing materials and challenge cards in plastic shoe boxes, pencil boxes, Ziploc bags, or baskets.

Available at the Dollar Tree!
Laminate these printables for long-term, repeated use! I print the challenges and reflection double-sided, then laminate and place them in boxes or bins with appropriate materials. I also print and laminate the recording page. We use this page for Minute to STEM it challenges and STEM Book Companion challenges so students are very familiar with it.

A basket full of apples!
You will find most of these materials in your own classroom. However, I have included some examples of great STEM materials that are worth investing in! 

STEM-tember: Minute to STEM it!

Welcome to our fourth day celebrating STEM-tember this week!

Yesterday we talked about book companions which are great for an extended study but sometimes you just need a quick challenge to fill time on a short day or Fun Friday. I've created a line of quick challenges to fill this need!

Each Minute to STEM it challenge offers an activity that is low cost, low prep, and highly engaging! These are easy to implement and use common, affordable materials.

In each pack you will find a combination of the following:  challenge poster, challenge rules, teacher directions, guiding and discussion questions, student instructions, recording sheets (appropriate for K-2) a STEM journal (for upper grades), and printable materials (as necessary).

This FREE Bobbing for Apples STEM challenge is the perfect way to kick off STEM at the beginning of the year!

Be on the look out for more Minute to STEM it challenges to be added over the next few months!

Minute to STEM it: Floats

Minute to STEM it: Hats

MInute to STEM it: Bridges

Minute to STEM it: Ferris Wheel

Minute to STEM it: Carnival Ride