This is the first article in a series of interviews with Baker Charter Schools staff. Many of the questions will be the same in each interview, but the answers will vary because of the many different personalities and teaching passions of our staff!
Could you share with our readers a little bit about yourself and about your job at BWA?
Hi! I'm Shauna Altman! I live with my family in Pendleton, Oregon, and I'm part of the Eastern Region at Baker Web Academy. I am the writing/language arts teacher for 6th grade students that are part of our "Choice Program." That is, students and their parents choose the textbooks that are the best fit for them. I also teach elementary technology and middle school digital learning, and I plan to start teaching a visual note-taking class this fall.
Wow! That's a lot! We all love our school, but what do you love that is outside our school? Family, hobbies, etc...
My family is awesome, of course! We love music and going on trips together. I also do a lot of tech outside of school. I can easily spend hours on the computer or my ipad, playing with art or even playing Minecraft.
What is your favorite thing to teach at BWA?
I love teaching my middle school digital learning class. I designed it myself with creativity and middle school students in mind. This summer I plan to add more digital art and video editing elements to the class, based on student requests!
What is your favorite field trip?
This is a tough one. I find something to love about every trip we take. However, digging for fossils in Central Oregon was a pretty awesome trip. I learned so much, and I enjoyed listening to the questions students posed to our ranger field guide. I even went back to dig for fossils on my own later, in the town Fossil, inspired by this trip!
Can you share a student success story?
Yes! All of my advisory students are successful in some way. I think one of my favorite things to watch was an older student, one in high school. I will call him Mo. Mo came to our school halfway through his junior year. Math was stressing him out--big time! It was just overwhelming and it made him sick to his stomach.
When we put Mo in our most popular math class, it started to stress him out again. So we met with a counselor. (If I remember correctly, we had a video conference.) We decided to try a different math curriculum. I also gave him the information to contact the math tutors and I showed him how to search for additional math lessons on Khan Academy.
The switch made all the difference! Suddenly he was able to study and take notes in a way that worked for him, he was able to get the help he needed, and he began to see success in the math class. It was all that the student needed to feel better at school and in to feel better in general!
What was the most memorable home visit that you have experienced?
My favorite things at home visits happen after all of the progress monitoring is done and all of the other logistics are out of the way. Then I can read a story with the little kids, or help with an art project, or show a fun video on youtube that helps with math, or share a website with older kids who need an extra challenge. There is always some fun way to integrate technology into learning, but art supplies are super fun as well!
What is a challenge that you have had to overcome at Baker Web Academy?
One challenge that I faced when I started my advisory home visits was that students would just leave the table or start playing on a device while I was meeting with them. I found that it really helped to set up expectations--at the start of the year and again at the start of the new semester--where we talked about no cell phones or devices at the table when it is the student's turn. I expect students and parents to be present when I am at their house, and I am present in return. We only have an hour, twice a month. So we'd better make the most of that time together!
As a school, we have studied the growth mindset all year as part of our professional development. What does the growth mindset mean to you?
To me, the growth mindset means that things will change, and we will change and grow with them. Mistakes will be made, and that is ok. We will fail. I will, my students will, and parents of students will. And that is ok, too. If we never fail it is only because we never tried.
Through failure, we will learn where we need to focus on improvement. Sometimes that means we need to take that class again. Sometimes we just need to spend more time doing the work we have. And sometimes we need to take a different path to get to the same results. Always, I see my students' path to graduation and the world beyond.
Thank you, Shauna, for taking the time to do this interview!
Thank you! Have a great day!