Meet Walking Classroom Ambassador Ellen Smith. Ellen teaches fourth grade gifted students at Glenbrook Elementary School in Illinois, and is in her first year using The Walking Classroom. She has worked in education for over ten years!
What are your memories of yourself when you were that age?
When I was in fourth grade, I had a favorite teacher, Miss Savage. She was young and had taught in Alaska before coming to our school. This intrigued me, as I lived in Illinois, and Alaska was just so different!
I also met a friend who had lived in Thailand (her dad was in the military), and I was amazed by her travels as well. As far as what I learned back then? I have to admit I don’t really remember much about what I may have learned in fourth grade . . . it was about 45 years ago.
What led you to become an educator?
I originally studied Therapeutic Recreation in college and worked about ten years in that field. However, once I had children, I quit working full-time and began substitute teaching. After ten years of substitute teaching, I decided to go back to school and complete an M.S. in Education, so I could have my own classroom. You see, I had a principal I worked for who was encouraging me to do so, and she gave me my first teaching position!
Share your educational philosophy in one to three sentences.
I truly believe all students can learn, but they all learn differently. Thus, teachers need to find ways to differentiate their instruction. Also, their classroom design should provide for movement throughout the day, as this meets the need of the diverse learners we have in our classes.
What is your favorite content area/topic to teach? Why?
I like teaching math and science. They were my two favorite subjects in school, and I love that both can be very hands-on.
What is your favorite podcast or Walking Classroom memory and why?
I have several favorite podcasts and so many still to listen to. My favorite memories are of my students being excited to bundle up in the winter (we live in the Chicago area, so it is cold in the winter!) and go out for our walks. I thought there might be resistance, but there wasn’t.
What is your best teaching memory?
I love the lightbulb moments, when a student finally ‘gets it’. But I also will always remember the discussion I had with my first graders about their desks and the importance of them. This was around the time that it was decided to ditch the desks and offer flexible seating in the classroom. I had noticed the students were choosing to sit anywhere in the classroom except their desks. They would sit under my desk, under the tables we had, or they would be standing at the tall table we had. This past year was my fourth year teaching without desks or assigned seats, and I would not go back.
What advice would you give to a new teacher?
Be flexible! Great learning can happen when you least expect it, . . . and you may just need to take the tangents once in a while.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read, garden, bicycle, and travel.
Name something you’d like to cross off your bucket list.
Well, I have traveled to Thailand once, but I have never been to Alaska, so I would love to go there one day!
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