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Teacher Feature - Ms. Sandra Ponce

August 2, 2017

Inspired Teaching spoke with 2016 Fellow Sandra this July to learn about her experience co-teaching Pre-k students in summer school before beginning her first year as teacher of record.

What is your favorite thing about working with children?

I love how creative children are. They don’t need prior knowledge to be creative—they just are. It’s invigorating and a new adventure every day. They give the best hugs. I love how they are always genuinely happy to see you every morning. Even if the previous day wasn’t the best day for them, when they come to school the next morning they scream, run down the hall, and hug you. That makes it all worth it.

Now that you’ve completed a full year with the program, how would you describe your experience with the Inspired Teacher Certification Program this far?

It was very challenging in a way that pushed me to be a better teacher, a better planner, and willing to be excited for the unknown. And that something I never thought I’d be ready for. This year helped me prepare for the unexpected, and my lead teacher helped me learn that if I listen to my kids, they will help guide my lessons in a way that is best for them to learn. This entire experience has felt like a scary roller coaster that I would 100% get back in line for.

In what ways have you grown this summer?

This summer has taught me lots of patience – I thought I was organized before, but this summer taught me to be even more organized. Throughout the summer I’ve learned to how to plan and get ahead of my work, which allows me to have the freedom to enjoy being in the moment my students without worrying about lesson planning for the next day or thinking about what comes next. Also, this summer gave me the great opportunity to speak with kids without the pressure of the academic year, and that’s been really refreshing. I don’t have to push an agenda; for some moments I can just sit with my students and together we can chat, play, and make believe.

You are co-teaching with a cohort member. How has collaborating with your colleague influenced your growth this summer?

Co-teaching is new for me and establishing equal collaboration has been challenging, but it has given me the insight into my collaboration style. Teaching alongside a cohort member has allowed me to understand the balance between what I need from a partner and what I can give them. I’ve learned more about honest and open communication. I’ve especially learned the importance of being upfront from the beginning and being able to see the other person’s point of view and see where I may be able to give more, and where I need to get more from the relationship.

The overarching theme of summer school is STEM, and each classroom picks a more specific, unique theme. How have you used the theme in your classroom to excite students about STEM?

We came up with the idea of Engineering Through Fairytales because students could learn about engineering by building structures from fairytales in a way that brings these concepts to life. In our classroom, the students are free to decide to build whatever structure they want—we don’t want to limit their imaginations. They are only required to write their ideas so they can see the their progress from the start. All building is encouraged. The fairytales helped get the students hooked into the concept that all children have idea and with perseverance, they can bring their ideas to life from paper to object. Even when it is hard and frustrating, we encourage our students to work with their hands and innovate. Our class mantra is a call and response: I say, “If it doesn’t work this time, what do we do?” The students answer: “We try, try, try.” 

What role does integrity play in your classroom?

I’ve seen a lot of integrity in that even at this young of an age, our students acknowledge that when one of their friends is building a really great structure, they are able to collaborate. If our students are stumped, they’re encouraged to as a friend for help first, then ask a teacher. This helps allow them to feel autonomous for their learning ad feel that all ideas are important. Through teaching STEM this summer, I’ve seen that as students build, they acknowledge that their idea has come to fruition, but a friend helped it come to life as well.

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