There’s no doubt about it. Language arts teacher Aimee Nadow is tech-savvy.
On any given day, the Academy at the Lakes teacher uses technology to help her students enhance their reading, writing and creativity. On one day, for instance, she’ll set them loose on AutoCAD computer design software to create the balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet.” On another day, students use PicMonkey photo editor to design book covers for the manuscripts they’re writing.
They’re also frequent users of Pinterest to digitally “pin up” work that they’ve done, and they know how to edit digital clips.
Harnessing technical tools in her classes is all in a day’s work for Nadow, whose mother was a children’s librarian, and her father ahead of the crowd when it came to technology.
Nadow has a deep appreciation for the power of language, and a clear understanding of how traditional and modern tools can enliven lessons. She sees the value of being able to skim information, but also knows the importance of being able to delve deeply into subjects to gain knowledge.
The independent private school where she teaches has long understood the quality of Nadow’s teaching skills, middle division director John Pitcairn said. And, Academy at the Lakes is delighted that Nadow has received national recognition.
The middle division teacher recently was named a 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator. It’s a distinction bestowed to just 100 educators nationwide.
As a member of that select group, the Land O’ Lakes woman will take part in a yearlong professional development program.
She is excited by the prospect of being able to learn from other educators who share her enthusiasm for using technical tools to enliven instruction. During a recent class, Nadow used a giant touch-screen television to display images and to foster discussion regarding a Holocaust art project the students will create.
They have been assigned to demonstrate their understanding of the book, “Night,” by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor. They’ll show the teacher what the book means through an art project of their choosing, and they’ll describe their artistic intentions in accompanying text.
Besides preparing students for that assignment, Nadow also guided them through software called ETS Criterion that analyzes writing to identify grammatical and sentence structure issues that should be addressed. As students navigated through the program, Nadow moved about the classroom, responding to their questions and helping them stay on track.
She offered extra help outside of class, if anyone needed it.
Nadow clearly is in command of her technical skills, but she also has an obvious rapport with students. She said she has a secret weapon: It’s called respect.
On the first day of classes she tells her middle division students that she will treat them as adults, unless they behave as children — in which case, they’ll face the consequences.
“I try to afford them as much dignity as possible, because I remember situations when I was in middle school and I would see a student that would be treated unfairly, or would be embarrassed in front of the classroom,” Nadow said. “That is absolutely not the way to teach. You lose so much time if you’re focused on classroom management, rather than learning.”
“Seventh and eighth grade is my perfect fit,” she said. “I really enjoy their (students’) sense of humor, their creativity, their willingness.”
Nadow also appreciates their trust, and believes in using a personal touch with her students.
As they file into her classroom, she greets each student by name and shakes each hand. As the kids make their way to their places, there’s a low-level rumble as they chat.
The teacher uses a simple routine to settle them down. She counts — 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — and by the time she finishes, students are focused on her.
It’s easy to see that Nadow strives to create an environment where students are engaged and want to learn. When she poses questions, they are eager to respond and share their ideas.
While she obviously is technically competent, Nadow also possesses other important skills that equip her to be effective, Pitcairn said.
“It’s her enthusiasm, her positivity, her joy, her human qualities that are a critical part of making her the very valuable teacher that she is today,” Pitcairn said.
Posters in her classroom reveal that Nadow has high standards, but a kind heart. One sets out the class rules. Of course, it has such things as “Always tell the truth. Work hard. Listen to your parents. Keep your promises.”
But it also includes these instructions: “Laugh out loud. Be grateful. Use kind words. Try new things. Dream big.”
Another poster offers this message from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”
Finally, a sign above the classroom door proclaims “Carpe diem,” or “seize the day.”
That seems to be Nadow’s motto, and one she wants to pass along to her students.
Published April 23, 2014
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