Name: Christan Martin
School: Colonial Heights Middle School
Located: Colonial Heights, VA
Number years teaching: 13
What do you teach and to what grade(s)?
I taught Grades 4 and 5 at Arlington Science Focus School in Arlington, VA, for six years, and I have been a gifted resource teacher in Grades 6 and 7 at CHMS for the past seven years.
Why do you like what you teach?
In college, I found myself drawn to students from low-income families
and to students with learning disabilities and other challenges. After
graduate school, I was hired to work with gifted and advanced learners
and unexpectedly found my true passion. I absolutely love working with
gifted and advanced learners and am inspired by their passion for
learning, their complex and unending questions, and their willingness to
explore and take chances as they investigate new topics and challenges.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
I have always wanted to be a teacher. Some of my first (and favorite) memories are of me “playing school” with my dolls and friends.
Why do you like to teach with hands-on products?
When students are actively engaged in their learning, they are really
learning! As a teacher, I feel that it is my job to provide the students
with opportunities to explore and discover and construct their own
learning. People learn by doing, so I put lots of thought into creating
activities and finding resources to provide students with lessons and
activities that are hands on, interesting, engaging, and appropriately
challenging. Plus, it’s fun!
How does using hands-on products improve the students’ learning experiences?
Again, when students are actively engaged in appropriately challenging, interesting, and hands-on activities, they are more likely to truly learn the topics and concepts. I never just tell students an answer or tell them how to solve a problem. Instead, I provide the students with opportunities to explore and discover for themselves using hands-on activities. Even when it would be faster and maybe easier to just tell the students how to do something, it is important for students to develop and utilize their critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills to try to find their own solutions first. I love watching students work through problems on their own. Their learning is so much more satisfying and real when they take ownership of their own learning. Plus, once again, hands-on activities are much more fun than sitting at a desk, answering problems out of a book! I like for students to describe my class as one that is fun but challenging.
How long have you been using Pitsco Education products?
I have been borrowing resources and videos from the technology education teacher for a couple of years to use when working with students on various design challenges and engineering activities. This past school year, I taught an elective course, specifically targeted to our identified gifted sixth graders, and spent an entire quarter focusing on engineering. In this course, I really began using Pitsco Education products and found a lot more I want to use in the future!
What is your favorite Pitsco Education product and why?
Even though I don’t have that much experience using Pitsco products of my own, I love being in the technology education lab and classroom and seeing all of the Pitsco materials and student projects using Pitsco materials. I love seeing and hearing the students’ excitement each year when they spend nine weeks designing, constructing, testing, and racing their dragsters. I think I will have some new favorite Pitsco items after I am able to use the scholarship funds to purchase materials to use with my students!
How do the students respond to Pitsco Education products?
Pitsco Education products encourage hands-on exploration, and in my opinion and experience, student learning is directly related to their level of interest, engagement, and challenge. Pitsco products, combined with thoughtful, well-planned lessons and activities, provide students with those opportunities to explore, discover, and develop problem-solving skills while really learning important skills and concepts in a wide range of areas.
What is your greatest teaching accomplishment?
What's your greatest teaching accomplishment?
Over the past 13 years, I have been blessed with amazing students and parents. As I reflect on these past 13 years, I think there are many little things that I would describe as great accomplishments. I am certainly very proud to see student data reflecting tremendous growth from pretests to posttests and to have students earn high scores on SOL tests, but these are most definitely not what I would describe as my greatest teaching accomplishments. I think I can narrow it down to a couple: in fifth grade, I had a student who came to me hating to write. On his language arts survey at the beginning of the year, he wrote, “I don’t know how many different ways I can say that I don’t like to write.” Over the year, he grew into a strong, confident writer; and just the other day at his high school graduation party, his mom told me that a writing project that he created in my class is still in his room and one he talks about as being an important and favorite activity in his education. Anytime when I can inspire students to find a new passion or talent and to build confidence in their abilities, it is a great accomplishment for me. I would also say that another great teaching accomplishment is that I still have close relationships with many of my former students and their families. I love watching these young people reach their goals, realize their dreams, and follow their passions that they may have even been sparked by one of my lessons in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade.
Visit www.pitsco.com/scholarship for details about the scholarship or to nominate an educator you know.