This is the first in a series of posts that will highlight some of our remarkable teachers and share their perspectives on blended learning. Mary Kate serves as the second-grade teacher at Holy Angels Catholic School. You can contact Mary Kate at .
Prior to the start of this school year, Mary Kate was skeptical about blended learning, to say the least. After experiencing success as a second-grade teacher in a traditional classroom in New Orleans as an ACE Teaching Fellow, Mary Kate accepted a position at Holy Angels for the 2016-17 school year to be closer to home and remain part of the ACE family—not to teach in a blended-learning classroom.
“I thought blended learning was going to feel like a way to replace the teacher,” Mary Kate told me.
But during the school’s blended-learning summer program for teachers—led by the ACE blended-learning team—Mary Kate’s perception of blended learning changed drastically. As she became familiar with the digital programs, she recognized that the programs would allow the students to develop their independent learning skills and progress with mastery. Even more importantly, over the past few months Mary Kate has realized that blended learning enables her to be a more effective teacher and magnifies the impact she has on her students.
When you walk into Mary Kate’s classroom, you will almost always see her working closely with a small group of students rather than instructing the whole group from the front of the classroom. “I love that I have the ability to work with small groups while the other students use their time productively on the computers,” Mary Kate said. “[Blended learning] creates flexibility and freedom that I have not had in the past.”
Mary Kate reflects almost daily on data from the computer programs that the students use. She admits that it is challenging to keep up with the wealth of information available at any moment, but she believes that the data allows her to support and challenge her students like she never could have before.
And she is not the only one looking at this data–her students love to see it, too! “My students have become obsessed with data. Every Friday, I help students see if and how they have grown, and they look forward to it all week. They love to make connections between concepts they are learning on the Chromebook and other things they see in class and in their lives,” Mary Kate said. “They love when they reach a ‘Big-Kid’ level or a new topic like multiplication or division that they thought was too hard for them. They have learned to set goals and how to adjust those goals when needed.”
Mary Kate remembers the feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed that she felt as she became accustomed to this new way of teaching, but when I asked if she would recommend it to other teachers, her answer was an enthusiastic yes! “When you see students working at exactly the right level and, for some students, finding success for the first time ever," she assures, "it will all be worth it."