(From left): Ford McDaniel and Annalee Willson with Cliff Powers
Can you describe your role as 21st century learning specialist?
I will be working with PK through fourth grade teachers on ways to implement and integrate technologies that enhance and expand classroom curriculums. In these grades, that will target the use of SMARTboards, iPods and iPads specifically.
How is this role new or evolving for JA?
This position was created as a result of the iLearn initiative. However, the intention is to have the need for this role decrease over time as teachers become increasingly comfortable with technology integration. To balance this offset, my responsibilities as lower school STEM lab instructor will continue to expand. I am already thinking of ways to grow the STEM program in the future including the involvement of first grade and kindergarten.
Describe your role as Lower School STEM instructor.
Beginning this year, the STEM lab will be serving as the science curriculum for second, third and fourth grades. My responsibilities are to not only teach the subject matter, but to serve as the facilitator for the team-based, hands-on projects.
What is exciting for students in STEM lab?
Just the fact that students are now coming multiple times a week to an environment that is stimulating, interactive, and engaging is exciting for them. The children work in teams of four following a NASA crew model. Each child has a specific role to play within the crew: (commander, materials specialist, communications specialist, or information specialist), with certain responsibilities of their own. Units of study, called Missions, include cool topics such as rocketry, electricity, skyscrapers and crime lab. It really has been a huge hit with the kids – and I’m having a blast as well!
Tell me about the gecko and the songs….
One of the things I really wanted to do was create a classroom environment that equaled the impressive content of the curriculum. To help achieve this, I created a “Creature Corner” to display live animals representing reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects. Our residents include two guinea pigs (Buzz and Neil), two White’s tree frogs, and a female leopard gecko named Selena Gecko. When I feed her we sing, “When you’re ready come and get it, Na, na, na, na, Na, na, na, na…” The bottom line is that I want my students to have a love of learning. I’ve always held that philosophy as an educator. Now that goal is easier than ever as STEM education is, by its very nature, fun and exciting.
What is the thing you would most like to see students do (in education or just in life)?
My primary desire for my students is that they would become lifelong learners and that they would never lose that child-like sense of wonder and awe for God’s creation. I also want them to recognize and embrace their value and worth as a person…to know that they are special, blessed with God-given gifts and talents, and fearfully and wonderfully made. I try to show my students every day that I value them as unique individuals and that I truly enjoy their company. I not only consider teaching to be my profession, but my ministry as well.
What did you study in college?
My degree is in elementary education from Belhaven University.
Where else have you worked?
My first job was at Hillcrest Christian School teaching elementary music for four years. At St. Paul Early Learning Center I taught pre-school for six years, followed by seven years of teaching kindergarten at University Christian School. Last year I taught first grade at Park Place Christian Academy.
What made you apply to work at JA?
It was truly a God thing as I have had an interest and passion for teaching hands-on science, engineering and technology for the past three years. Once I met with Eddie Wettach and Matt Morgan, I knew that I was being led in this direction. I have never met a more welcoming, friendly and gracious administration, faculty, student body or patronage. The reception has been truly overwhelming. I am so blessed to be a part of the JA family. I couldn’t be more thrilled.