Granby Teachers Explore WGBY Educator Resources

Granby photo

Just one week ago, teachers from the Granby MA. Public Schools participated in WGBY workshops at the junior/senior high during their professional development day.  JoanVohl Hamilton, a dedicated ELA teacher there, was a great help in making these workshops happen.  (Here’s a photo of one group with Joan first in the top row and myself front row, fourth from left:).  These K-12 teachers came into the junior/senior computer lab enthusiastic to learn about the rich resources that WGBY’s Community Engagement and Education Department has to offer.  During our two afternoon sessions, they were able to sign up to receive WGBY’s Education Blog and learn about PBS TeacherLine online courses and WGBY’s Lending Library.  One teacher regretted that she had just asked her school librarian to purchase a Ken Burn’s film she could have borrowed for free, and another began checking off TeacherLine courses she can take to support her students’ needs and fulfill her PDP certification requirements.

But the highlight of each workshop was PBS LearningMedia with its now 34,000 — and growing — resources.  After seeing the site’s user-friendly functionality and registering for free, teachers were able to search resources by grade level, content area, standards, and collections.  Some teachers even began saving favorite videos, interactives, and lesson plans to later examine, share, and organize in folders.  While some had to contend with a few tech glitches such as slow computers and blocked sound, teachers’ feedback showed their appreciation for this hands-on opportunity, with many wishing we’d had more time to explore this vast resource!

Teacher Profile: Jamie Lynn Lewinski, Making a Difference

indexWe’re happy to share another profile of a recipient of the 2013 Pioneer Valley Teacher of Excellence Awards.   Jamie Lynn Lewinski, district ESL teacher for the Granby Public Schools, sent in the following responses, which reveal her dedication and commitment to making a difference in students’ lives.

Why have you become a teacher?  I chose to become a teacher to make a difference in my community.  Working with English Language Learners is extremely rewarding as it allows me to help a group of students who are at high risk for not completing their public education.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching, and where do you find your inspiration?  My inspiration comes from the diverse population of students that I teach.  Their families sacrifice so much and are faced with so many challenges.

Who has been a role model for you and why?  My great aunt always emphasized to me how important an education was.  She instilled in me the value of a college education and the importance of sharing knowledge with others.

What is a favorite classroom resources?  My favorite classroom resource is my iPad.  I’ve just begun tapping into its potential use in the classroom but the students are already loving it.

How do you try to keep a balance between the demands of your professional and person life?  I have trouble keep a balance because the relationships I build with my students and their families become very personal, which blurs the lines between my professional and personal life.  I best serve my families by being available during non-school hours.

If you could change just one thing in education today, what would it be?  It’s still frustrating to me that there never seems to be enough money to provide adequate services to our children.  If we short change our children, we shortchange our future.

Featured Educator: Rita MacInnis — Loves her job!

SKMBT_C55413082011080_0001We’ve been privileged to share the profiles of recipients of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards.  Here, in our last profile of the summer, are the responses of Rita MacInnis, first grade teacher in the Williamsburg-Hampshire Regional School District.  We thought that  her love of her work made her profile especially appropriate since we just celebrated Labor Day.

Why have you become a teacher?  I always wanted to teach, from the time I was young.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your teaching career?  My husband, also a teacher and administrator, was always my mentor and supported me through jobs, job interviews and all teaching experiences.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching, and where do you find your inspiration?  I love my job!  I love greeting my smiley students each morning.  I want to do everything I can to ensure their love of learning and to support, nurture and enrich their school experience.  They are my inspiration.

Who has been a role model for you?  My husband, Tim Luce.

What is a favorite classroom resource (e.g., website, lesson, activity)?  I enjoy the resource, Mailbox magazine.  I also use the internet and Pinterest for current ideas.  Fountas and Pinnell phonics is a program I use and recommend as well.  To gain my first graders’ attention, I often raise my hand and say, “5 —  eyes are watching, ears are listening, mouths are quiet, bodies are still and hearts are caring.

How do you try to keep a balance between the demands of your professional and personal life?  It is definitely easier now that my children are grown, but I always made time to go to their after-school activities and games.  On weekends I would enlist their help to make games or charts and to help me in the classroom.  I have found that if I am well prepared for school each day, then I am less stressed, and I am a happier wife and mother.

Featured Educator: Lauri Aliengena — Loves Children & Learning

FaCET-logo_300x300During the 2012-2013 school year, Lauri Aliengena experienced her second year of teaching third graders at Woodland Elementary School in Southwick, MA.  This past spring she became a recipient of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award.  While she’s still early in her teaching career, Lauri’s responses to our questions reveal characteristics important to effective teaching — a love of children and learning.

What motivated you to become a teacher/educator?  I have known that I wanted to teach since I was a young girl.  I love learning and get very excited to share that with those around me.

 What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I am early in my career, and I am fortunate enough to have very supportive colleagues, but I do wish that someone would teach me the questions to ask and the steps to take to get particular testing done on students I feel have special needs.

 What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  I find my inspiration in my students.  I plan trying to create a fun and informative environment.  This in itself gets me excited because I cannot wait to see their receptiveness, reactions and interactions with the curriculum.

 Who has been a role model for you and why?  My best role models have been the wonderful veteran teachers that I have known whose continual effort, enthusiasm and curiosity have ensured that they are outstanding.

 What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students?  I love children, and I also love diversity (diversity in ethnicity, gender, family make-up, personality traits, etc.).  A classroom is the perfect place to find all of those things.

 What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?  Teaching has to be from your soul.  It’s not something you learn.  It’s who you are.

Featured Educator: Karen Chouinard-Sheedy – Expanding Horizons

indexOur educator profile this week is of Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Karen Chouinard-Sheedy, who teaches cosmetology at William J. Dean Technical High School in Holyoke, MA.  You can hear her dedication to and appreciation of teaching in her responses to the following questions.

What motivated you to become a teacher/educator?  I started out as a professional in the cosmetology trade.  Throughout my years working behind the chair, I had the opportunity to educate my clients about their hair and skin needs.  I wanted to expand my horizons and decided to go back to school and become an educator in my field.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I was very fortunate to have a great mentor when I began my career at Dean Tech High School.   Her name is Sandie Longpre, and she was running the Cosmetology Department at Dean when I arrived there. She inspired me to become the instructor that I am today.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  Through the years, so much has changed in education and hairstyle trends.  It is both exciting and challenging to keep up with the rigouous needs of both DESE and the Industry.

Do you have a favorite resource, website, lesson/activity that you’d like to share?  Because of the nature of the subject that I teach (cosmetology), I am constantly including differenciated activities to present the frameworks of the technical program.

How do you try to balance the demands of your professional and personal life?  I am at the point in my life where the demands of my personal life are minimal.  My family is grown, and many of the responsibilities that go along with a growing family are no longer an issue.  This gives me more time to plan lessons and attend professional development activities.  I also work as a graduation coach and mentor in my building.

The Wisdom of Fred Rogers During Times of Tragedy

Just as adults struggle to understand the devastating explosions at the Boston Marathon, children also need help to deal with the frightening news they see and hear from various sources.  Fred Rogers long ago understood the best ways to nurture healthy young people during good times and bad , and he left a legacy that supports educators and parents today.   Thanks in part to the assistance of UNC-TV, North Carolina’s public television network, and public television station WTVI Charlotte, a  booklet entitled  Helping Children Deal with Tragic Events in the News:  Timeless wisdom from Fred Rogers for parents, caregivers and teachers is available to you.

In it you’ll find information about what children fear at times such as these, how to make them feel more secure, how to talk and listen to them as well as other helpful hints.  The booklet also shares the story Fred Rogers often told about his mother’s words to him as a boy when he watched frightening news:  “My mother would say to me, ’Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’  Teachers have always been among the world’s helpers, and we hope you’ll find this wisdom from Fred Rogers helpful.

Extending the School Day and Year

Over 1,000 public schools across the United States have lengthened the time that students spend in the classroom and after school.  The New York Times reports that in the 2012-13 academic year, five states will be adding a total of 300 hours to the calendar, and in the next three years, forty more schools will be adding time to the school day as well as after school.

Coordination and support of the extended learning initiative comes from state education officials, the National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research and advocacy group; and the Ford Foundation, whose president expressed the need “’for creating a learning day that suits the needs of our children, the realities of working parents and the commitment of our teachers.’”

Children targeted are those underperforming students who need to catch up academically and  experience more enrichment activities.   Those in favor of the initiative add that these high-need students, with less structured after school time, lack extracurricular activities often enjoyed by more privileged classes.  On the other hand, some in teachers’ unions  argue for fair compensation for teachers and believe that adding time on learning is inadequate to address the problems at hand.

Even some local schools in Greenfield, Springfield, and Holyoke have either already extended the school day or are thinking about doing so in the future.  Read the latest in a recent article.

As a teacher, please let us know your thoughts about the benefits and/or the disadvantages of extending the school day and year.

Teaching Channel Presents

Are you anxious to try some new and innovative techniques this year to engage your students and prepare them for the 21st century?  In October, Teaching Channel Presents and PBS LearningMedia invite the educational community in our region to observe master teachers do just that.  You can learn how to incorporate digital literacy, the common core standards, the arts, and science technology into your classroom.  (Season 2 premieres on WGBY World on Sunday, September 23 at 5:00a.m.)

Now in its second season, Teaching Channel Presents is a groundbreaking series showcasing inspired teaching in America’s K-12 classrooms. Each weekly one-hour episode focuses on a compelling issue facing education today, a wide variety of topics including the New Teacher Experience, Bullying, The Common Core State Standards, Digital Literacy, and the Arts.  For more information and a free online library of more than 500 videos featuring real teachers in real classrooms,  please visit http://www/

For now, check out one of their videos on teaching the Common Core Standards in Elementary School.

Celebrating America’s Beloved Culinary Teacher – Julia Child

A large part of what made Julia Child a cooking legend and cultural icon was her ability to teach, and with more than a dash of that special ingredient that teachers add – enthusiasm!  In her passionate and sometimes breathless way, Julia forever changed the way we cook, eat, and think about food.

This month, WGBY wished Julia Child, TV’s first celebrity chef, a happy 100th birthday.  As you enjoy these August days, you might want to relax by watching some of the most memorable episodes from her classic cooking series, The French Chef.  Featured will be commentary from noted chefs, actress Meryl Streep, and author Julie Powell.

Check out this remix video from PBS Digital Studios that was created for this special centennial celebration of Julia’s life:


You can also watch clips from Julia’s pioneering public television series as well as related video, including one of Meryl Streep giving her private theory about Julia’s “animating sparkle” and indomitable spirit.  Bon appétit!

New PBS TeacherLine Course: Fundamentals of Virtual K-12 Teaching

New research predicts that the number of K-12 students taking online classes will jump to more than 10 million by 2014 – either attending a virtual school for all their classes or a hybrid situation where they combine virtual with face-to-face experiences. With this increase, school districts need highly qualified educators who can meet the needs of all students in an  online environment.

Because of this boom in virtual schools and blended learning experiences across the country and few quality PD experiences for virtual K-12 teachers,  PBS TeacherLine has just launched a brand new course, TECH570:  Fundamentals of Virtual K-12 Teaching.  The first section is now open for enrollment and will start on February 29th in the late winter term.

In this course educators learn how to be effective virtual teachers who build community, develop tone and voice, and effectively assess virtual students.  They also learn about national standards for quality online courses from iNACOL, SREB and the NEA.   As a project-based learning experience, the course provides the opportunity to build an eLearning Toolbox with resources and materials to use in future virtual experiences.

To view all 70+ TeacherLine courses for PreK-12 educators in content areas, STEM, Instructional Technology and Instructional Strategies, visit .