Magnificent Murals Winner!

Meet Our First Winner of the High 5 Initiative, Amanda T.
Art and Exceptional Education Teacher

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The big moment is here! Teacher Peach is pleased to introduce the first of five visionary and talented teachers whose engaging school projects are true winners! These teachers and their projects add incredible value to their school communities. The winners of this initiative are dedicated educators and we believe their work will inspire students and colleagues alike—that’s why they were selected by principal and thought leader, LeeAndrea Khan, to receive a $100 Teacher Peach award to fuel their educational project as part of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative!

Amanda Transforms Blank Spaces into Celebrations of Art—and Life!

Amanda T. encourages her students to look at blank walls, doors, and bulletin boards and envision the colorful and informative possibilities! This heartwarming High 5 Initiative includes the beautification of her Floridian middle school and improvement of the community image of the school. With this grant, her art class will now have the freedom to continue to paint beautiful, artistic murals around the school, helping to make their school environment even more inviting for the community. Amanda’s educational project goes beyond aesthetics, giving students a unique sense of pride when they see their original works publicly displayed. It also help students to connect visual expression to some very important life lessons that serve us all well to remember.

Our esteemed judge, LeeAndra Khan, explains why this project was a “picture” perfect choice as one of the winning entries. “Getting students to be part of keeping their own community beautiful only enhances their learning experiences. It is important for students to have voice and choice in their school. This increases engagement and ultimately impacts success. When they feel like they belong there, they act like it.”

Amanda Says . . .

We had the privilege of interviewing Amanda about her experiences in education and her goals for her project. Here’s what she had to say . . .

TP: How long have you been teaching?
AT: I have been teaching for 10 years.

TP: Why did you become a teacher?
AT: I became a teacher in the field of Special Education/Art to help students who learn differently become confident in their personal learning styles—and to keep learning in their own special ways. This applies to all students, of course.

TP: What are the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
AT: The most inspiring aspect of teaching is to watch students become interested in and eager to participate in the learning process, enough to want to show off what they know.

TP: How do you think this project will impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
AT: The “Beautify the Door” Contest involves my students in my art classes. The students use perspective in the literal way with drawing buildings and then they add a written component with sayings about how we look at life—learning and behaving, for example. They’re able to see the significance in how art can impact people in a variety of ways. (We’ve included a short video illustrating her “Beautify the Door” Contest below!)

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
AT: My best advice to other teachers, especially new teachers, is to stay on your toes and be creative! Also, be on the lookout for where your kids are and what they bring to the table. Students drive the lesson forward by what they bring with them from their own life experiences. What they have inside and are willing to share with us can teach us, as teachers, in the process. Then we can connect the lessons to their realities in ways we wouldn’t have imagined would be possible. Just by listening, we learn, too.

Sparked by Amanda?

Amanda’s colorful concept will have a BIG impact on both her students and the community as a whole. By creating an inviting and expressive academic environment, she is inviting her students to express themselves, enhance their environment, AND she’s also reminding her students that there are people who care for them, about them, and are willing to support their successes. Teacher Peach is proud to help Amanda create these vivid, fun, and creative displays that will spark students’ creativity and curiosity—and those of the school’s faculty, too. In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Amanda and her students.

 

Check out just a few of these Teacher Peach products Amanda will use to help her students beautify their learning space!

Keep It Together Portfolio Case

The Box! Totefolio

Take a Peek!
Amanda shared a quick video of some of the work her students have done so far. In under a minute, she’ll give you a fast tour of how these amazing students express themselves and make connections that will inspire all of us! Go, Amanda!

 

What ideas does Amanda’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students? What spaces surround your classroom that could be enlivened by the creativity of your kids?

 

Meet Kim M. The Winner of the All About Writing! Gift Set

It was a privilege to invite Kim M., the winner of the Teacher Peach All About Writing Gift Set in our recent holiday contest, to answer a few questions about what makes her tick and thrive as a teacher. One of our two contest winners, Kim’s name was chosen at random to receive this gift set. Congratulations, Kim! Here are some of Kim’s thoughts. We hope they spark you to comment and continue a dialog about what you love about teaching.

   KimM_Teacher_Peach_Contest_Winner   All About Writing Gift Set

TP: Kim, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
KM: This is my 19th year of teaching. I have taught one year in second grade, six years in kindergarten, and twelve years in first grade. I have also been married for 19 years and we have two sons.

TP: What made you enter the contest?
KM: I follow Teacher Peach on Facebook and I was really interested in the gift sets that Teacher Peach was giving away in the contest. Both gift sets had lots of colorful things in them that I knew I’d use.

TP: Why did you want to win the prize and how do you plan to use it?
KM: I wanted to win the prize because I really liked the bag! 🙂 I also liked the notecards that can be sent home as a way of communication with classroom families; that’s really important to how I work as a teacher. That kind of connection is a big part of how students perform. We’re one team, families and teachers, all working to help the kids. I am also very excited to use the teacher journal and little black book. It’s important for all teachers, new and seasoned, to collect their thoughts, reflect on what is working and what can go better the next time. Even after nineteen years, or especially after nineteen years, I know that even just a few minutes of reflection can inspire a new idea to try the next day, help teachers see a pattern, or remind teachers that “we’ve been here before.” We tell even first graders to journal and express their thoughts. It’s a big part of being a good teacher, too. It’s good to look back because it is easy to forget that kids grow at different times and in different ways. Sometimes, an idea that didn’t work in November is perfect for that same student, come March. Journaling can help teachers see and recall that idea at the right time.

TP: What are the three biggest rewards for you as a teacher?
KM: Seeing the growth that my students make through the year, seeing their faces light up when they accomplish something they were not sure that they could do, and just the joy of being able to teach these students are the biggest rewards. Being a teacher is kind of like being a conductor of an orchestra. Every student plays a different instrument in his or her own way, and in many different keys, often all at once! As teachers, we do not play their instruments for them; we guide, we help them find the beat, and we hope they’ll hit their high notes when they are ready. When I see a face light up with pride, when my students discover they can do something new, that’s what’s music to my ears!

TP: What are the three biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
KM: While assessment is important for so many reasons, it can be tough to manage and prepare the little ones for so much assessment these days. The amount of assessing that is expected for elementary students is significant and it needs to be a part of lesson plans, strategy, and every teacher’s priorities. But if we use the results right and we are good teachers with the kids’ needs at the forefront, we can use this information as another data point in creating the right solutions for the students. It is also very challenging when families are not involved in their child’s education. Many families do the very best they can; others just seem not to be connected and as teachers, we do not always know why. But we always see the difference it makes in the education of that student when a family cannot or is not involved. Whatever the reason, the results are the same—tough for the child. Believe me, they know the difference—we all do. Lastly, as a teacher, you always want to reach every child. Every child is different and as teachers we need to focus on meeting all the needs of many diverse learners—all at once. That can be a challenge for any teacher.

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
KM: This advice is going to sound easy, and be much easier to read than to enact each day. That said, these three pieces of advice have helped me a great deal. The first is always be prepared. The second is always listen to your students. Finally, always have a positive attitude. The first, always be prepared, is actually the easiest because it rests squarely on the teacher’s shoulders. By preparing for the week ahead, teachers are ready to contend with the many surprises we encounter all week long. Without that plan, we’d be constantly reacting. With preparation, it’s much easier to respond on a dime to what the kids need. You can’t REgroup without a group of plans to begin with! Second, listening to your students sounds so simple, but it is actually quite difficult to do sometimes. The classroom is a place of great activity and it is easy to get distracted. Also, some kids just don’t want to be heard—or perhaps they aren’t ready. Kids can also speak in a code that teachers need to crack. A mumbled “I don’t know,” the quiet shrug of a shoulder, or a downward glance often means something more. As teachers, we need to listen to what is said—and what isn’t. Lastly, as for having a positive attitude? That comes from loving what you do, even on a day filled with challenges. As teachers of young elementary students, it’s important to remember that kids will definitely sense your moods, your reactions, and will generally take their cues from you. If you’re positive, then I’m positive that you’ll stand the best chance of getting positive responses from your students.

Kim’s thoughts on teaching and her suggestions come from the heart—and from nineteen years in the classroom. Kim’s All About Writing Gift Set is en route to her. When she opens her package, she’s promised to reconnect with Teacher Peach so stay tuned for Kim’s next installment. What would you add to Kim’s thoughts? When do you feel most rewarded as a teacher? What advice would you like to share? We’d all love to hear about a few of your favorite moments as a teacher.

Meet Sharon B. the Winner of the Words to Grow By! Gift Set

It was a privilege to interview Sharon B., the winner of the Words to Grow By Gift Set in our recent holiday contest. Sharon’s name was chosen at random. Congratulations, Sharon. Here are some excerpts from our interview.

SharonB_Teacher_Peach_Contest_Winner  Words to Grow By Gift Set

TP: Sharon, tell us a bit about you, how long you’ve been teaching, what grades, etc.
SB: I’ve been teaching for 24 years. Now I’m teaching fifth grade, ELA and Social Studies. I’ve taught students from second through eighth grade over the years.

TP: What sparked you to enter this Teacher Peach contest?
SB: I like your page on FB. I love the products, especially the tote bag. I also enjoy the different quotes and share them with my kids, too.

TP: What makes you come back to Teacher Peach?
SB: You get teachers. Teaching is my passion; it is not a career. It is my passion to help my students. When I help students with reading and literacy, I’m doing work that’s right for me—and for them. Many times, students are reading two grades below level. My passion helps me put myself in their shoes. I keep in perspective exactly where each child is and I tell my students I know they can succeed. I encourage every different student to brush off the struggles and frustrations and keep moving forward. Teacher Peach shares my passion for teaching, teachers, and kids. I like that.

TP: What are the three biggest rewards for you as a teacher?
SB: When I started teaching, thought I’d change the world. I quickly learned that would take longer than I’d thought. Now, I see I’ve made differences—one student at a time. It’s the greatest feeling to discover what former students have achieved. It reminds both of us of the difference we made together. Middle school may have been a long time ago, but they remember and so do I. It can take years to know you were a part of their success, but it is worth the wait. I’ve even had the chance to teach the children of former students. Finally, when I worked as a special needs teaching assistant, I found different rewards than I ever imagined. To see those children, so eager to learn and discover what they can do, was big. They didn’t judge, they were open to doing their best, and when I would spot their determination, when I could spark that smile on a child’s face, it was wonderful. All kids can do so much if we encourage them. When they can trust you as a teacher, it is very rewarding.

TP: What are your three biggest challenges?
SB: Every teacher knows that there are just some days you don’t feel you’re getting through to your kids. I stop myself and wonder what those children deal with before and after they are in my classroom. I remind myself that we have no idea what they struggle with at home. As an English teacher, I see students who don’t like to write. I need to figure out other ways to reach them. Getting enough support is a challenge, too. Teaching assistants work so much harder than many teachers see. I was a TA and that experience opened my eyes. As teachers, we need to appreciate all the support teams around us.

TP: You have such an incredible attitude and approach to teaching. What advice would you have for other teachers?
SB: First, put yourself out there and be confident in yourself. Failures do help to build confidence; don’t be afraid of that. Second, smile and keep a positive attitude. I always tell my kids, “Your day always turns out the way the corners of your mouth turn.” That’s good advice for anyone to follow. Finally, have teaching passion. If you are passionate, then teachers teach and learn. We learn from our students—every day. I take what I learn from my kids and try my very best to share learning right back.

TP: What would you tell new teachers and college students considering teaching?
SB: Again, you need a passion to teach. “It’s all in or go home!” Realize you’re never done learning; graduating is the beginning of your next learning opportunity. Keep learning. Seek out PD; I do. I think new teachers think success is about big things, but it isn’t. Teaching with passion shows you that the little things are really big things when they help a student grow and learn! Use numbers wisely, too. Test scores measure progress, but remember the number one, too—one child at a time. Every single child is an individual. Help each do well in class and they’ll do well on standardized tests. Testing is a great measuring tool because you can see progress from starting scores to new ones. I’ve helped kids make a two-year leap in one school year, to jump 47 points in one year! That gain means we’re doing the right things. Data doesn’t lie. Don’t worry what level a student is when you begin; that’s a starting point. I tell my students that if they’ll work with me, I’ll do everything I can to work with them. Let your students know you’ll help and that you know they’ll do their best.

TP: Any other advice for other teachers?
SB: Remember to get down to the kids’ level—look at the world through their eyes if you can. Peer pressure is huge these days. You’ve got to have empathy. Jump in, put yourself out there, and you’ll learn and become an even better teacher.

TP: As you know, Teacher Peach strives to support and appreciate teachers. What makes you feel appreciated?
SB: My district is so amazing, and I’ve always felt appreciated here. Other teachers have told me they’re not so fortunate. From what I hear about other places, politics can sometimes overshadow being there for the kids. In my district, I’m supported for doing my best with and for my kids. I love it when families acknowledge the work I do. Cards and letters from my own principal mean a lot, too.

TP: Can you suggest products you’d like Teacher Peach to create to help support teachers?
SB: You’ve got lots of products of all sizes, which is good. I love the sticky notes, cards, stickers, pencils, clips, Sharpies®, and supplies we use all the time. I also love little pins and clips for lanyards. Personally, I love anything with a ladybug on it. I use LADYBUGS as acronym for what I do.

Sharon’s Ladybug: Learning Always Demonstrates that You’re Building an Understanding of Goals and Skills!

Sharon has certainly shared her understanding of the goals, skills—and passion—every teacher needs to thrive. Sharon’s Teacher Peach Words to Grow By Gift Set is en route to her. When she opens her package, she’s promised to reconnect with Teacher Peach, so stay tuned for Sharon’s next installment. We so hope Sharon’s words of wisdom and ideas inspire you the next time you go into your classroom. What would you add to Sharon’s messages? Do you have a teaching ACRONYM to share?