Featured Teacher Amber Watts shares what inspires her and how it has been like teaching during a pandemic.
WHERE DO YOU TEACH?
Healthy Learning Academy (HLA). We are a tuition free, Alachua County Public Charter School located in Newberry.
WHAT GRADE/AGE DO YOU TEACH?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A TEACHER?
11 Years – All of them at HLA
WHAT SUBJECT DO YOU TEACH?
Why were you inspired to teach?
I had some pretty amazing teachers growing up and I have always loved learning. I always wanted to know the who, what, where, when and whys of everything. I hope to instill the same in my students. I express to them that my job isn’t to just teach them 3rd grade standards and curriculum, my job is to teach them to be kind and helpful human beings as well. We do Yoga and Mindfulness activities daily to help them learn how to identify and manage their emotions. As well as to help work through said emotions if necessary. It is amazing what children can do when given the tools and opportunity to do so.
What is your favorite part of the school day?
Every part of my day here at HLA is my favorite! It really was too difficult to choose just one. I have an extraordinary group of students who have had to overcome so many changes this year because of Covid. I love how my students are excited and eager to learn when walking through the door each day. I especially love how sweet and kind they are. Even while handing tests out, they are thanking me and smiling.
How has being digital affected your teaching style? Share your feelings and how digital teaching has been going. What do you miss most about being in the classroom daily if you are teaching digitally?
I currently have 11 in class students and seven digital students. I teach them at the same time throughout the day. I started the year with six in class students and 12 digital students. Digital teaching has changed my teaching style immensely in that I am not able to let my students be as hands on as I usually am. Our COVID cleaning protocols and such have made it near impossible for students to learn this way. Safety is my number one priority though, so we follow the guidelines given to us line by line.
I am a huge believer in hands-on learning. I feel students learn more quickly as well as retain more information when they are allotted a kinesthetic approach to learning. Of course my visual/auditory learners are getting what they need as well through these activities and more. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do as many hands on activities as I would like to do, but we are slowly and carefully starting to introduce them as the year progresses. Prior to this year, I usually had flexible seating options in my classroom. Each child sat on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This year we have had to resort to stools and while they are not chairs, they are still not as flexible as the exercise balls. Research has shown that children who use exercise balls as chairs have increased gains in concentration, on-task behaviors and show improved academic achievements. Students also build body strength in the health aspect of learning. I cannot wait to bring flexible seating back into my classroom when I am able to do so.
In regard to teaching digitally, I have been very fortunate to have such amazing families on the receiving end of digital learning! It is a huge team effort, and I couldn’t do any of this without the help and support from my “teachers assistants”. While it is still very time consuming to recreate tests and assignments via Google Classroom, it has been working very smoothly. It was a huge learning experience for me, but I feel things are going as smooth as can be. Of course, there are hiccups every once in a while, but again, my students and their families have been very patient and understanding.