Spend five minutes talking to Kenroy Elementary teacher Veronique Paquette and you will understand why she is one of five second-grade teachers in the country selected to participate in the national Science Master Teacher Project. Paquette, who has spent 27 years educating kids, lights up the room when she talks about her passion for engaging students and helping them catch the spirit of learning. She is a leader in the use of technology in the classroom by working with her students to find effective ways to enhance their education through use these new tools.
The Science Master Teacher Project, sponsored by the National Education Association, brings together innovative teachers from around the country to write lesson plans that will be freely shared both in this country and potentially worldwide. The lesson plans are being developed based on the latest standards for instruction that reflect the move away from memorization and toward an inquiry-based approach.
"I've always been an inquiry-based teacher… it's a natural way to teach kids," said Paquette. In that approach, students learn to tackle real-world problems by asking questions, developing research skills, coming up with creative solutions and collaborating with others. It'a a more human-based approach rather than education as a mechanical process.
She recalls a defining moment a few years ago when one of her students, on the last day of class, expressed the opinion that all of the lessons for the year were connecting. She said for a youngster of that age to be the perceptive brought tears to her eyes because helping kids find the tools to make sense of the world around them is the essence of being a teacher. The seven-year-old youngster understand what she had been trying to create.
Paquette, who has national board certification, applied to be part of the project to share her knowledge with other teachers but has also discovered that working on lesson plans with a coach is helping her improve her own skills and abilities. She's convinced it will make her a more effective teacher.
The inquiry-based method of teaching works wonderfully with the technological prowess of today's students. They are so attuned to using technology that Paquette finds students to be an invaluable resource in discovering how best to use those tools.
At one point she asked her then 10-year-old daughter to help figure out how to use an interactive "smart board," and it saved her time and effort in getting up to speed. This opens up big opportunities to create classroom environments that are more collaborative and teachers can be more coaches and advisors and less purveyors of information and data. It's critical, she told me, that technology enhances the learning experience and doesn't replace curriculum. Using these tools effectively increases student engagement dramatically, she added.
It's encouraging to see the innovation and enterprising efforts happening in classrooms throughout North Central Washington. Paquette is just one of many talented and creative souls who are finding ways to engage students.