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Elementary Educator of the Year is an ‘educational risk taker’

Robin Schumacher

HIGHLANDS RANCH – When you walk into Robin Schuhmacher’s first-grade classroom at Sand Creek Elementary, you don’t often see them all sitting at their desks.

“You'll come into my room in the morning, even during literacy hour and kids will be spread out on the floor, working with partners,” Sand Creek Elementary teacher Robin Schuhmacher said.

“I don't want them sitting in their chairs all the time,” Schuhmacher added.

That is not how it always was in this classroom.

“I [would] talk and they [would] get, they sit and write and it was super quiet,” Schuhmacher said. “I've let go of that a lot in my room this year.”

Schuhmacher, who has been teaching for ten years, including eight at Sand Creek Elementary, says it took a little nudge from her principal, Ashley Gerke to take a step outside of what she had been taught in her first years in education.

She told her, “‘you know what, 'you don't always have to follow the path everyone is on. Take some chances.’ It took that for me to feel confident, to step out on my own a little bit,” Schuhmacher said.

“She definitely is an educational risk-taker which means I'm going to try something new today, that I didn't try yesterday. It may not be what everyone else is doing, but I'm going to give it a go,” Gerke said.

Instead of spending all of her time working to get the kids to sit still, so she can teach an entire lesson, today Schumacher encourages them to lead their learning.

“I've taught the bare minimum to spark that interest and then I'm kind of letting them go to see what they can do as a team and work together, really to collaborate together,” Schuhmacher said.

Instead of lecturing, she shows the students how to do their own research.

“I'm not going to be the person to give it all to them,” Schuhmacher said.

That has only fueled the kids’ curiosity. Now the kids have more questions and enthusiastically research topics, even well after the school day is done.

“I hear parents, come and say to me. 'Oh my kids were so excited to be learning about the Statue of Liberty. They were on the Internet all night on my phone, Googling about it,” Schuhmacher said.

“They're questioning me more, and they're becoming better question askers as we kind of go through the process,” she added.

Principal Gerke says that is what 21st Century Learning looks like at a first-grade level. She says Schuhmacher’s kids are collaborating, communicating, being creative and critically thinking on a daily basis.

“When you get first graders asking questions that are really out of the box thinking that is the proof in the pudding right there,” Gerke said.

Schuhmacher says she is glad she has taken a chance and is teaching a new way.

“You're always adapting and changing. If you're not going to adapt and change, to where your kids are. They're probably not going to have fun in the classroom,” Schuhmacher said.

She is now sharing the lessons she’s learned with her colleagues, through her position as a Digital Age Teaching and Learning Leader (DATLL). Among other things, she has introduced other teachers to Toon Boom, a fun computer application that allows students to show their learning through animation.

“It is kind of fun as a teacher to do it because teachers see what we're doing and the buy in and what is working and they want to do it,” Schuhmacher said.

Congratulations to Robin Schuhmacher, the 2014 Elementary Educator of the Year. She was honored on March 1, at the 2014 Apple Awards ceremony.

March 6, 2014 | By rmbarber | Category:

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