DEN Community Member of the Week: Robyn Thiessen

IMG_2453Robyn is a grade 3 teacher and Making Learning Visible advocate at Surrey School District #36 in British Columbia. She has been using Discovery for 3 years. She shared “Discovery content and Tech Book have allowed my students to be more engaged in their learning. It has also allowed for greater differentiation and provided me with a tool to meet students where they are. I love that Board Builder allows my student an opportunity to make their learning visible and share their learning in a meaningful and authentic manner.”

How do you start your day?
With lots of coffee, I have a 45 minute commute, so I need to be alert in the mornings! I love to get to school early so that I can get my planning done and connect with my PLN via Skype or Twitter. I have many friends that are spread out around the globe so early mornings are often the best time to connect.

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I wanted to make sure that students that normally fall through the cracks had an advocate. Then I discovered that it was my passion. Teaching is my joy, working with students every day is my joy! I have had opportunities to leave the classroom to work in other roles but I choose to stay and help students to be the best that they can possibly be. To be their best selves, everyday!

What is one of your favorite ways to use Discovery Education?
I love using Board Builder as a tool to engage students and help them to think critically about content. Students look for videos/content to support their learning statements and then add them to their boards, explaining why they are a valuable learning tool for their peers.
I also love using SOS strategies! The Snowball strategy for exit tickets and 3 Truths and a Lie to evaluate student progress!IMG_7181

What is a ritual you have in your classroom?
Some days we have soft start: we begin with quiet music and play dough. Students spend 20-30 minutes just creating and chatting with their neighbours. This allows my students an opportunity to decompress and socialize prior to the formal learning time. We also love daily brain breaks with Just Dance videos.
If we aren’t creating with play dough first thing in the morning we are reading. Donalyn Miller’s book, The Book Whisperer, really resonated with me. For the past 2 years I make sure that my students have several opportunities a day to just sit and read. To read for enjoyment, to read for the simple joy of reading. No quizzes, no questions, no out loud reading. Just an opportunity to chose and read anything they want to read!

How are you involved in education aside from your role as educator?
I am a school associate for Simon Fraser University and have sponsored teacher candidates for over 20 years. I spend much of my after school time presenting and facilitating at schools in Surrey and beyond! I am also a DEN Ambassador facilitator and spend many pro-d days sharing the DEN love in Surrey! Within my district and province, I am a teacher leader advocating for making learning visible through digital portfolios(Freshgrade) I recently was part of a team that won the SFU Inaugural Cmolik Prize for Enhancement of Public Education in British Columbia.

IMG_6709What advice do you give to a teacher who is hesitant to use digital media in their classroom?
Go for it! Take risk. Never be afraid to try new things in front of your students, never be afraid to let your students be the experts. Learn with them and from them!
Just try one new thing, everyone started with one thing. Figure it out and then try one more new thing and so on. Soon you will have a whole repertoire of techy ideas that you can draw upon to help your students be engaged in and active participants in their learning.

What advice do you have for first year teachers?
Find a mentor, a person you can partner up with to help you celebrate your successes and give you a hug when you think you can’t do it anymore. Remember it is about the kids, they are the reason you are there! Everything else is gravy!

What sites do you visit to assist in your teaching practice?
I connect with my PLN on Twitter, join chats, read blogs, and attend and facilitate many professional learning opportunities. I am a member of several global networks, Classroom Champions and have many critical friends that meet and share ideas and best practice on a regular basis. I also meet with members of my PLN daily/weekly on Skype using the instant message feature.

What other organizations/groups are you a part of?
Classroom Champions Classroom and Educator
Global Classroom Project Lead Teacher
Global Genius Hour Project Creator and Facilitator
Genius Hour Mentor
Making Learning Visible Advocate and FacilitatorIMG_7055

What is your most memorable experience with the DEN?
Road Trip! My first international DEN event was a road trip to Seattle for DENapalooza! My friend Diana and I headed down south to meet new DEN friends and meet the DEN Princess (Porter Palmer) for the first time! Attending DENSI14 was also one of my favourite DEN events because I had the opportunity to meet some amazing educators and see fireflies for the first time!

When you’re not working, where are we most likely to find you?
Hanging out with my Pals: Diana, Dee and Gallit plotting on how to improve education one teacher and student at a time! or we are shopping!
I also love to read(anything) and soak up vitamin D and ….well…. I love to connect with my friends through social media, which means you may find me on my laptop or phone!

What is your favorite kind of donut?

How can others connect with you?
FB-Robyn Phillips Thiessen @robynthiessen


Connect with Robyn and share your favorite ways to use digital media in the classroom!


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