April's Featured Teacher: Laura Carr

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 Laura Carr is the subject of our April Teacher Feature! She teaches math and science for 3rd and 4th grade at Rufino Tamayo Elementary School. Last year, her math scores were the highest in the school, leading Tamayo in the rise from “Academic Watch List” to a 1+ rating! She is known throughout the building as a dedicated early bird, often hosting students as early as 6:45. She is also a key member in staff versus students sporting events, including basketball and volleyball.

Stats

  • Bachelor’sDegree in Elementary Education from Illinois State University
  • Masters’ Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University
  • Years teaching: 18

Core Professional Beliefs

I believe that children need to feel safe at school. They need to feel confident that their teachers will support their learning as individuals. Currently I have students in the 1st percentile and students in the 99th percentile. Every one of the 32 students is unique.  Success depends on knowing how to treat students as individuals and how to develop lessons that individualize learning.  I support and celebrate each student individually.

Children need teachers that are kind. I have 2 children at home. When I ask them about their school day, they rarely share the academic side of the school day. They share the stories about how a teacher made them or another child feel, or how a teacher or another student treated a child in a cruel way. As teachers, we have the responsibility to make our classroom a safe place where children want to be and where they are valued. I think students’ success is a result of a safe environment where everyone feels valued, not because of their test score, but because they are children.

I try to balance my learning activities daily. I teach both 3rd and 4th grade math about 2 hours a day. Children cannot sit still for 2 hours. I do a whole group lesson every day. After the whole group lesson, students work in pairs or groups for math rotations. I like student working in pairs the most because working in pairs forces equity in the work. During rotations students are working on learning activities that reinforce and review math concepts. At the beginning of the year I model and monitor rotations in order to make sure the students understand the expectations. During rotations I work with small groups or individuals to re-teach or enrich student learning.

What are you reading?

I am reading Children’s Mathematics Cognitively Guided Instruction by Thomas P Carpenter.  It discusses children’s mathematical thinking. 

If money was no object, what would you have in your classroom and why?

If money were no object I would have a class size of 24 students. We can all see how small class size can positively impact student learning. If all classes were made up of 24 students our scores would be through the roof! I love using math game in class. I have a nice collection of games, but I am sure I could add more if money were no object.

Describe a time when you worked with a team to accomplish something.

I work with a fantastic bunch of dedicated teachers. As a team we share ideas and support throughout the year. Last year was a difficult year for us because Tamayo was on the Academic Watch List.  Every teacher at Tamayo worked long hours. Our backs were up against the wall! Through constant persistence and a “We will not fail!” attitude, teachers pushed themselves and student learning.  It paid off! We not only were taken off the watch list but now we are a 1+ school. 

How do you stay organized?

Google Doc, Dropbox, external hardrive,buckets, file cabinets and labels.  I have nightmares about my hard drive crashing so I try to back everything up.

What types of technology would you use in your classroom and why?

Tenmarks and Dreambox are both subscription websites that we use at Tamayo. I think Dreambox is more student friendly. Both are adaptive and engaging for the students. Ipads and tablets are wonderful tools to support student learning but, learning is social and children need a variety of learning experiences to be most successful.

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