Sherri Nelson teaches English & Reading, Math, Social Studies / History / Geography, and Science / Biology / Chemistry — and she’s one of the Teachers We Love. You can learn more about her in the interview below, and at The Teacher Marketplace.
Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I’ve always had a burning passion for inspiring and encouraging others. As a young girl, I practiced the art of teaching and never veered from my lifelong goal: to positively influence students of all ages. I love sharing my knowledge with other colleagues as well and helping them master the craft of teaching.
How has the last year affected your students and your teaching approach?
The last year has greatly impacted my teaching in many ways, although I was blessed with the opportunity to teach two different grade levels online. I had to be resourceful and learn new technology for starters. I found a way to connect with students, to raise them up, and to reward them effectively. I had the opportunity to use my creative skills to build presentation slides and interactive games.
I upped my game when I became a virtual teacher and this year I chose to teach online so that I could continue developing my skills and help other teachers around the world. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What’s a creative solution you use to keep kids engaged or motivated during COVID?
I love using humor as well as creative ways of praising and encouraging my students. I might use a virtual sticker jar or have students kiss their brains, or have them get out their invisible treasure boxes, choose a sticker, lick it, and paste it to their foreheads for all to see. I might use different voices, hold props up to the camera, or give a virtual high-five. These types of quick and silly activities never fail to keep my students motivated.
What resources do you like to use in the classroom or in teaching remotely?
I use whiteboard.chat slideshows because it is versatile and allows me to present information, teach and, most importantly, keep students accountable. When they log in, they each get a copy of my slideshow. During class, I add text, edit, highlight, etcetera depending on the activity or discussion. I also prepare pages for individual student practice.
My favorite feature is my ability to enter each student’s page to see their progress and provide them the help they need at that moment. Whatever I do on their page stays private from the rest of the class. Virtual stickers and manipulatives are also included with this modality.
Google Jamboard is great for students adding sticky notes or text and promotes team effort and class discussions. In the regular classroom, I love using a SmartBoard to compliment my lessons.
What is your experience with bullying in the classroom?
The key to preventing bullying is to build a safe and warm classroom environment where students know they are loved and respected. I find a way to bond with each student and in no time, that student will happily do whatever is asked.
I compare my class to a chain necklace. We are each a link. One broken link and the necklace is no longer useful or as good as it could be. Hanging a visual at the front of the room is very effective.
Kindness is contagious and has to be modeled. Problems need to be nipped in the bud immediately through kind words and relevant role modeling or examples. By the end of the year, my students are encouraging each other and kindly helping struggling students on their own. It’s such a joy to see.
How do you gauge if your students are succeeding?
I use formative assessments in my classroom. I observe, I keep anecdotal notes, I pull students one-on-one, teach small groups on their levels, gauge by verbal participation and written assessments. Giving a pre-test and comparing results to the end assessment gives me a great guide for future teaching. Data of all kinds need to be considered.
What’s a fun thing students don’t know about you?
I had the honor of teaching educators in Liberia, Africa new ways to teach reading strategies. I also taught VBS [Vacation Bible School] to students there. It was the most rewarding experience ever and my experiences often pop up during classroom discussions.
What’s the one book you wish all students would read?
That’s a tough question because there are so many good reads out there! I would have to say my favorite book from childhood — James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. It is silly, imaginative, and has content great for lively discussions!
What is your primary educational goal, and what are you most proud of as a teacher?
My main goal in education is to make meaningful and special connections with my students and their families. Once that is established, the academic and behavioral growth comes naturally and it is amazing!
I am proud of impacting little lives in a big way, so big that many of my past students remain in contact with me after 20 or more years. Relationships in the classroom are so important. One student might remember how I brushed her tangled hair each morning with a brush I bought just for her, another might remember how I was the only teacher who believed in her. I taught my 5th-grade boys how to crochet during recess simply because they wanted to learn. I didn’t know in the moment how impactful these simple actions were, but hearing it directly from my past students decades later is what makes me shine.
It makes me know that I’m in the right profession and that I need to continue learning my craft and teaching students in whatever capacity I can.
Meet More Teachers We Love in 2021
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