Editor’s note: Our work with school districts across North America affords us the opportunity to meet thousands of passionate and innovative teachers, coaches, and administrators driven to transform learning experiences. In this series, ALP team members share their perspective from partnering with one of those trailblazing educators.
Beth Gillikin, 5th Grade Teacher
Smyrna Elementary School, Carteret County Public Schools (NC)
Beth Gillikin is one of those teachers – one who is willing to try anything to help her students. Beth is a member of the Trailblazer Cohort in Carteret County, a group of over sixty teachers selected for specialized professional development and provided with access to classroom sets of Dell Chromebooks. Our monthly coaching sessions focused on Beth’s current content and ways she might incorporate technology. Beth tried everything offered to her, taking the initiative to research and find additional technologies and instructional strategies to engage her fifth graders.
The year that she and I worked together, Beth had the most challenging group of students that she ever taught. Instead of resorting to worksheets and rote instruction, Beth elected to teach not with packets but instead with passion. She began to integrate engaging content, give students choice, and create lessons that would engage her students.
Learning about Google Sites opened up a whole new world for Beth and her students. Beth used Google Sites as an easy way to present content to students, give her students choice, and provide a place to share their work publicly. In one instance, ALP teammate Craig Bennett challenged Beth to take her students’ poll results from inside the classroom to outside its walls. By the next day, Beth reworked her site to include opportunities for students to create brochures and videos that would be shared with their feeder high school and the School Board. Beth said that the quality of the students work skyrocketed when they found out that they had an audience for their “No More Homework” projects! See samples of Beth’s students work on this site.
Beth says it best herself when she says that her students can do anything on their Chromebooks, but what she and her students have learned is so much more than use of a tool. Her mindset completely shifted as she initiated her own learning after being inspired by the Trailblazer process. Students in her class are truly motivated- fueled by their interests, empowered to make their own choices, excited by an authentic audience, and driven by understanding why they are learning. Beth has moved from instruction that engages students to lessons that empower students. The challenging group of students she had this year have excelled beyond what anyone imagined and are on a path to success- and it’s been fun in the process!