For the remainder of 2015, Pitsco Education will be running a series of blogs showcasing the Teacher Advisory Group (TAG). Four questions will be addressed for each TAG member in the blog series.
Lilly Jensby is a STEMthusiast who currently serves as a math instructional coach for a Title I elementary campus in Plano, Texas. She has worked with students in all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth, as well as with teachers as the campus New Teacher Mentor and the chair of the Technology Professional Learning Community (PLC). Her passion lies in the conviction that fostering creativity, critical thinking, and innovative practices helps prepare students for success.
To this end, Lilly has cofounded Gadget Girls, an engineering initiative raising interest in STEM disciplines particularly for girls in Grades 3-5. She has also transformed her room into a math learning lab – a space filled with math-focused STEM activities.
She is actively involved on her campus by contributing to the new Learning Commons, an after-school coding class, and technology workshops. One of her favorite endeavors has been developing and teaching STEMtastic Challenges, a district summer school course. In 2014, she was honored to present at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), and she was one of 50 educators selected nationally to attend NASA’s LiftOff Summer Institute.
Lilly was asked questions to address math as part of STEM in the classroom, and she shares her great advice below.
What is something unique about your classroom?
This year I transformed my room into a Math Learning Lab (or “ML2
” as my students dubbed it). Kindergartners through fifth graders are invited to visit with a teacher in small groups or as a whole class. A variety of activities and challenges are set up for the students to explore and investigate. All have a math focus and generally go through a design cycle. One of my favorite activities is a package design challenge using Pitsco boxmakers
. Students explore various sample packages, view videos of packaging engineers, create a package from a template, and design a package that meets a minimum criterion or works within specific constraints (such as efficiently holding a given product). Since I’m not a classroom teacher, I’m able to bring in groups and guide students through the learning phases. I've really enjoyed using the room in this way.
Provide a best tip for classroom management.
Establishing a classroom community through relationships is key to managing a classroom. Students who feel significant and part of a greater good are more likely to be contributors rather than distracters. When setting classroom expectations, we discuss things that help our class and things that hurt our class, and we use this as a benchmark for what happens in class. Sharing ideas, taking risks, and asking questions all help our class; however, calling out or interrupting steals other students’ opportunities for thinking or brain growth, and this hurts our class.
What is your best piece of advice for a new teacher?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and actively build a community of support. It reflects a willingness to learn from others and an openness to take risks. We’ve all been there, as a first-year teacher, and benefited from the help/advice of others. We would love a chance to pay it forward!
What do you hope to gain from being a member of TAG?
I am excited to learn from such an impressive group of educators and hope I can be a positive contributor to the conversation. I am especially looking forward to getting perspectives from different parts of the country and from both secondary and elementary levels.