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  1. Community Resource Project By: Taylor Ewing

  2. Interviewee: SONYA SPIRES Mrs. Spires is a 4th grade teacher at River Springs Elementary School. She has been teaching for 17 years and I had the pleasure of being her student in 2001.

  3. Interview questions • Has anything about teaching changed since you had me as a student? • “Everything. One of the things that has changed the most is heavy use of online learning. When students take their assessments, they do so online. This has been put into place to better prepare them for the online testing they will have to do in the 6th grade.” • How do you make learning entertaining for your students? • “In order to make learning entertaining for your students you must use different modes that coincide with your studentslearning styles. It isimparativethatyou figure what modes better fit your class in the begining of the year. For example, the majority of my class now, are auditorylearners. Mylesson plans alwaysincludegames for the studentsafter the end of a section. This usuallygrabstheir attention and allowsthem to betterparticipate in the classroom. It’seasy to saythatyou have to competewithvideogames, etc to maintaintheir attention. »

  4. What fieldtrips and programs are available for your students to aid their learning? • “We take our students to the BrattonsvillePlantation, located in Brattonsville, South Carolina everyyear. Thisallowsthem to experience “living history”, including the African American story aswellaslearnabout the Revolutionary War. Ourstudentsalwaysseem to look forward to this.” • How hastechnologyhelpedyouteach/makelessonplans? • “Technology is used in every single one of my lessons. Each teacher has been provided with Smartboard’s and this year we were each given an iPad to help us teach. I also use streamline regularly, which my students always seem to enjoy. However, there are limits on the length of time you’re allowed to show videos. On my website, I post daily lessons which students are required to look at every day. The password is RSES123. Our school is very fortunate and sometimes goes a little technology overboard. We are given so much to use, that must be integrated in our lesson plans, sometimes it can be overwhelming.”

  5. What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are as a teacher? • “I believe my strengths as a teacher is the good relationship I have with each and everyone of my students. I act the same in front of them as I do in front of my peers. I’m real with them. I also tend to over plan a lot, so there is never a time where my class isn’t learning something. To be brutally honest, my weakness as a teacher is dealing with parent/teacher conferences. I feel like I can’t paint a true picture and still maintain a good relationship with the parents. Overtime I’ve learned to start off with the great things about their child’s learning ability and then move forward to what needs progress. When you get into a teaching career, you will learn that it starts new every year. It is a constant forward motion.”

  6. Does the school provide all the materials required to teach your lessons and how much money do you spend out of your own pocket for appropriate materials? • “Since I have been teaching at River Springs I have never had to spend money out of my own pocket for materials. They go above and beyond to provide what is needed. Not all schools are as blessed as we are though. When I worked in Richland 1, I had to buy most of my teaching materials. Teacher’s also have opportunities to try and receive grants. The grant program I once used was called "Donors Choose."  The grant was fairly easy to write. Basically you outline the project and the curriculum areas it addresses.  The teacher shops online resources and provide ordering information. Donors/corporations who accept the application, sponsor the items you put on your wish list.  I was rewarded $500 to order the printer, camera and booking making materials for the Harbison Hall Biography Project.  It is good publicity for the companies involved and it helps teacher gain the materials they need. At Harbison Hall my students were able to visit the elderly, interview them, write their biography, and send it back to them. It’s great for the residents and even better for the students.”

  7. How much time do you spend outside the classroom preparing your lessons? • “Every Sunday I spend 4 or 5 hours preparing for my lessons. During my planning period, I also do some fine tuning.” • What has been your biggest challenge as a teacher? • “Well, dealing with parents will make or break you. They will either be supportive and understanding or they can blame you for their child’s struggles. Another big challenge is how much bigger our classrooms are getting. Dealing with Administration isn’t the easiest either. There is a lot of red tape you have to go through. It’s also hard to listen to them because they aren’t the ones teaching the children, they are just the ones making the decisions.”

  8. What educational programs does your school offer your students during the week? Do you think the program is effective? • “Our school has something called the Later Gator program. This program was established for the working parents. The program strives to promote a safe, caring, and respectful educational environment for our children through the use of innovative teaching strategies and programs that are designed to provide opportunities for success for our children in a fun, supportive atmosphere. They offer aftercare, homework support, etc.”

  9. River springs elementary Compass Rose

  10. The Red Hall: Kindergarten and 1st Grade

  11. The Purple Hall: 2nd and 3rd Grade

  12. The Green Hall: 4th and 5th Grade

  13. The Blue Hall: Related Arts classrooms, cafeteria, &mini-theater