Meet an eMINTS Teacher: Sue Adams

img_14171Meet an eMINTS Teacher

Sue Adams, K-8 Gifted Education, Southern Boone School District, Ashland, MO

Sue Adams is in her 21st year of teaching. She has taught learners at a variety of levels including college, high school, and now primary, elementary and middle school. She has a background in Health and Physical Education and is currently teaching K-8 Gifted Education in the Southern Boone County School District in Ashland, MO. Sue is finishing her third year of professional development in the eMINTS Comprehensive program.

Getting her gifted students to participate in planning their own instruction has been a challenge. Sue often finds that gifted students are uncomfortable with planning what they want to learn because they have rarely been asked to do so. She overcame her students’ reluctance by breaking the task of planning their own learning down into smaller pieces. She started by presenting an interesting topic, such as Rube Goldberg machines, to students and getting them to think about creative ways that they might want to investigate the topic. She then moved her students into thinking about how they would demonstrate what they learned and how they would present their findings. From there, Sue engaged her students in creating rubrics to evaluate the many different products they came up with. Giving students options in a way that is carefully scaffolded with the desired goals and objectives in mind has been a successful way for Sue to reach her overall goals with her students. “My goal, and why eMINTS has been so important for me, is to constantly push my students to the edge of their learning.”  

Sue describes how student engagement in her classroom might appear to be “chaos” to the casual observer. However, what is really happening is the social and emotional engagement and growth that occurs when her gifted students get the opportunity to be together as learners. The students already all have an internal love of learning so getting them motivated is not a problem. Rather, the goal is to get her gifted students to reflect on their learning in ways that help them better understand themselves. Sue related that her eMINTS professional development helped her to examine the questions she was using as prompts for her students’ reflections. She was getting the same superficial responses until she changed the questions she asked her students, requiring them to think more critically.

Sue believes every learner, gifted or not, can be introspective about their learning at a level that is meaningful to them. She feels that it is up to the teacher to ask the types of questions that push students to engage in deeper introspection.

Another key feature of helping students to reflect on and personalize their learning is ensuring that the end products they create are presented to an authentic audience. Whether students are presenting to peers, to students who are younger or older than them, or their work is being published online in the form of YouTube videos or other methods, Sue finds her students striving harder to perfect their work.

Sue gave an example of a unit centered on creating an “Inventor’s Fair” to showcase how she uses technology tools. Students had to learn about and define the process of invention by studying several different inventors’ successes and failures. Using an app that allows students to summarize and share their findings about specific topics using digital “sticky notes,” Sue’s students had a visual model and used it to figure out how to organize what they learned from their research. They quickly determined that notes with information about an inventor’s birth date or place of residence had little to do with what they were interested in, namely, how the inventor’s successes and failures contributed to the students’ understanding of the process of invention. Students were engaged because they were focused on what they were doing and the digital tool enhanced their conversations and collaboration. Sue recalled, “It was what every learning day should be!”

Sue feels that peer collaboration through eMINTS and Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) has made her a “braver” teacher because it gives her the confidence to take risks knowing that if she needs feedback, it is always available in a collegial atmosphere.

Sue’s advice to others on the journey towards personalizing learning for students is to strive to break those old teaching habits that are rooted in the cycle of the teacher always being in control or being the one who is right.

This teacher profile was featured in the white paper Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning by Monica Beglau and Christine Terry. To view this paper, click here.


METC 2016 eMINTS Schedule

METC 2016 eMINTS Schedule, St. Charles, February 8-10, 2016

Monday, Feb 8. 2016 (Pre-conference):

  • 9:00AM – 12:00PM: Bring Out the Genius: Information Literacy and the Genius Hour, in Room 104 (w/ Michelle Kendrick)
  • 1:00PM – 4:00PM: Using iPads to Enhance Teaching & Learning, in Jr. A (w/ Carmen Marty & Carla Chaffin)

Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016:

  • 1:50PM – 3:10PM: Poster Session – Unlocking Student Creativity w/Google Draw, in Exhibit Hall (w/ Amy Blades)
  • 2:20PM – 3:10PM: Breakout Session – It is Really a Reality: Coding in Any Classroom, in Jr. B (w/ Michele Smith and Carla Chaffin)

Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016:

  • 9:45AM – 10:35AM: Breakout Session – METC Cool Tool Duel, in Grand A, (w/ Gina Hartman, Cindy Lane, Carmen Marty)
  • 2:20PM – 3:10PM: Breakout Session – Add a Little Inquiry, in Windsor 1 [Embassy Suites] (w/ Carmen Marty)
  • 3:25PM – 4:25PM: Breakout Session – Administrators! Ramp up Your Role in Technology Integration, in Jr. D (w/ Cara Wylie, Jen Foster)

Also, don’t miss the great keynote speakers on Feb. 9th and 10th! More information at http://metcedplus.org/


eMINTS Awarded Nearly $12M Grant

eMINTS Awarded Nearly $12M Grant

We are proud to announce an award to eMINTS of nearly $12 million from the Department of Education (DoE). Funded by the Investing in Innovations (i3) program, this award is among the largest received by the MU College of Education.

The eMINTS Expansion Project: Implementing College and Career Ready Standards through 21st Century Classrooms, begins January 2016 and builds on over a decade of research showing the positive impact of the eMINTS Program on student achievement and teacher practices. The five-year project will focus on 7th grade and develop eMINTS Affiliate Trainers in 56 schools in high-needs districts in Alabama, Utah and Arkansas and serve nearly 450 teachers and over 24,000 students. Partners include the American Institutes for Research (study evaluators), and one mentor district in each state, including lead partner Granite Public Schools in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Since the DoE requires all i3 grantees to find private sector matching funds, eMINTS has secured just over $600,000 of the required amount through cash donations and in-kind contributions. Additional private match commitments must be secured by April 1, 2016. Your support helps make a difference for students in high need schools in the participating districts.  For more information on this grant or if you would like to make a personal donation or in-kind contributions, visit the 2015 i3 grant page here: http://emints.org/grantsandprojects/2015-i3-grant/



Meet an eMINTS Teacher: Sonja Yoder

Meet an eMINTS Teacher

Sonja Yoder, English Language Arts Grades 5 and 6, East Lynne 40 School District, East Lynne, MO


Sonja teaches English Language Art to students in grades 5 and 6 in East Lynne, MO. She has 21 years of teaching experience. Sonja completed the extended three-year eMINTS Comprehensive Professional Development program.

Sonja described how she crosses an emphasis on using data to inform instruction with the curriculum provided. “What I gained the most through my eMINTS professional development was how to assess students in ways that are engaging so that I get accurate data about my students’ strengths and weaknesses and can better meet their needs,” Sonja explained. She illustrated how she used the assessment strategies she learned about to set up a unit on various concepts related to equality for her 5th grade students. One portion of the unit focused on slavery, Civil Rights, and how the Underground Railroad helped slaves achieve freedom. Students read literature related to the Underground Railroad and then devised a plan to reenact how slaves would have used the Railroad if their school had been a stop on the Railroad. Students randomly drew roles to play from slave owner to slaves trying to escape to people along the way who helped them The unit was very engaging for students and combined elements of history, reading (fiction vs. non-fiction), and using graphic resources. The unit culminated with discussions about the types of inequalities that are present today and how people deal with those problems.

Sonja feels that she has grown the most in her ability to help students design their own learning. She illustrated her journey from being a teacher who held the traditional ideas that students were not really capable of designing their own learning to one who gradually released control to students by allowing them to select topics they wanted to research to a teacher who now gives students more choice. For example, she used classroom discussion to help her 6th grade students write a research essay. She asked her students to identify a research topic related to literature they had previously read about space exploration. She was concerned that their topics might all be rather simple such as researching various planets but her students surprised her by coming up with more complex topics such as properties of gravity, the future of the international space station and other galaxies. The experience really reinforced her belief that students can handle designing features

Sonja’s students have access to 1:1 laptop technology in the classroom. She uses technology extensively in the writing process with concept-mapping software and word processing to support students’ thinking. She invented a type of “speed editing” where students sit in a circle and use features of word processing software to quickly edit one another’s writing and finding examples of each other’s writing that they really like. She related that her students really like using the technology for editing since the editing process no longer requires that they completely rewrite their papers to include edits.

Sonja’s advice to other educators who are working towards higher levels of personalized learning is, “Take it slow. As educators we tend to see something that works and then we want to try it and we want it to work right away, she noted. “Sometimes we try to do new things that our students aren’t ready for. New ways need to be a more gradual expectation that we build with our students. Doing the small parts really well will work better in the long run,” she advised.

Follow Sonja on twitter: @syoder90

Check out Sonja’s classroom website:  www.syoder.weebly.com

This teacher profile was featured in the white paper Connections and Convergence: eMINTS and Personalized Learning by Monica Beglau and Christine Terry. To view this paper, click here.