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Meet Inspiring Educator Stephanie Kearney of Penn Alexander School in Pennsylvania

Meet Inspiring Educator Stephanie Kearney of Penn Alexander School in Pennsylvania

“It is my job to teach children the material mandated, but it is also my responsibility to make sure they enjoy science and will explore STEM in college and career.”

That is what Stephanie Kearney, one of Edmentum’s 2018 Inspiring Educators, included in her Educator of the Year nomination when asked what kind of innovative learning techniques she uses to reach her students. Stephanie was chosen as an Inspiring Educator, as part of our Educator of the Year Award, in recognition of her exemplary implementation of technology and innovative strategies to keep students engaged in the classroom. As a science teacher at Penn Alexander School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stephanie works hard each day to make sure that her 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are getting the most out of their time in the classroom with her.

“I am fortunate to have a position where I see my students over three years,” she wrote. “I truly love my kids!”

During the three years of middle school that she spends as science teacher to the same students, Stephanie strives to make every one of them feel welcome, taking the time to get to know them individually. In addition to starting each school year with an online survey where students answer a few get-to-know-me questions, like “what did you do this summer?” or “what is your favorite memory from last year?,” Stephanie finds ways to incorporate relationship building with her students into everyday classroom activities.

“I visit each student and talk both about content and personal connections,” she wrote. “On assessments, I often have an additional question at the end where I ask my kids to tell me something about them I don't know.”

Stephanie said that gathering this kind of information from her students serves as an easy way to get to know them better and provides a talking point for later conversations with them. Having a good relationship with her students sometimes even trumps the day’s lesson plan, but she knows that building those connections can ultimately lead to greater engagement.

“When there is a buzz in the room, I know we must stop and discuss what's distracting them before we get to the learning,” Stephanie wrote. “Teaching is so much more that giving the information!” 

In addition to building strong relationships with her students, Stephanie said that she “strives to educate and grow the whole child.” She uses technology in her classroom every day and works hard to bring science to life for her students. Each class starts with a formative-assessment question displayed on her interactive whiteboard so that she can get a good idea of which students remember what they learned the day before and/or which ones did their homework. She can then regroup her students based on this quick assignment before she lets them dive into the lesson, usually using laptops for research, watching videos, writing on collaborative documents, and more. The lesson ends with another formative-assessment question, and homework is posted on an interactive homework site.

Stephanie’s 8th grade students also use Study Island in reviewing for the PSSA, Pennsylvania’s end-of-year summative test, and students are assigned topics of standards-based practice questions weekly that are reviewed on an as-needed basis every Monday. She begins preparing for standardized tests early in the year with her students, and because much of the material that is covered on the test is information she has taught them in 6th and 7th grade, she prefers to assign topics for weekly homework as an opportunity to spiral learning forward. Then, Stephanie adapts her instruction when she sees students who are in need of support.

“The data that Study Island compiles for me is very helpful in assessing who needs help, which topics are most important to cover, and which topics students have mastered,” Stephanie wrote in her nomination. “On Mondays, we review as needed. Sometimes this will be small group, focusing on Study Island resources for reteaching. We often play games such as Jeopardy using material taken from topics they have reviewed in Study Island.”

When she isn’t helping her students find success in science, Stephanie stays busy by involving herself in her community.

“Not only do I strive for excellence in the classroom, but I also manage the school garden with my students and the community as a whole,” she wrote in her nomination. “I coach [three] robotics teams both in school and at home with younger students from my school, I write curriculum and design assessments for a local university, and I run with our school running group to help train students for races.” 

It’s clear that Stephanie is a dedicated educator, but we think that Julie Mikolajewski, middle school literacy teacher at Penn Alexander School, said it best in the nomination she submitted for Stephanie.

“She’s hardworking, committed, and effective,” wrote Julie. “She has made an impact on not only the students she teaches but also the community. Our students are more environmentally aware and committed to becoming engaged, aware citizens because of her.” 

Please join us as we congratulate one of Edmentum’s Inspiring Educators, Stephanie Kearney. We know that she’ll continue to be there for her students and show them the power of science in the real world. Thanks for your amazing work, Stephanie!

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s Educator of the Year Award and this year’s Inspiring Educator honorees? Take a look at this blog post announcing all of this year’s winners!