DEN Community Member of the Week: Patti Harju

Patti Harju is a technology teacher and 2nd grade classroom teacher at St. Stephen School in Michigan. Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 5.12.09 PMShe has been using Discovery Education resources for about 8 years. She shared “I loved all the resources and found great ways to engage my students. However, I was just scratching the surface of DE’s resources. I became a DEN STAR and was accepted to my first DEN Summer Institute in 2010 – Boston. That week greatly changed the way I teach and opened up the world for me and my students. I learned more about what DE had to offer me and my students. I met educators from all over the world including Carol Anne McGuire from Rock Our World and that began my journey making music, Skyping and collaborating. I am connected to a network of educators around the world because of the DEN and communicate with them daily.”

How do you start your day?
I start my day by hitting snooze twice. Even if I wake up before my alarm, I stay in bed until I hit snooze twice. I get up and grab my clothes, chosen the night before, no time in the schedule for decisions in the morning, then it is time for coffee. If I can have a little quiet time before the rest of the house is up IMG_6327_2(usually on weekends) I happily enjoy it. Otherwise, it is a bit of breakfast, grab a Diet Coke to go, and then off to school.

Why did you become a teacher?
Teaching was the perfect fit right from the start. I have always enjoyed working with kids, and on most days it doesn’t feel like work. They are curious, honest, eager and can be great fun.
I love to watch them discover something new, they have this need to share it right away. When kids are engaged and excited it can be magical.

What is one of your favorite ways to use Discovery Education?
I love using the SOS strategies! I used the A-E-I-O-U strategy with video clips from the North America series (which I learned about at DENapalooza Flint!) It was a great hit, especially the Red Fox clip. The students also enjoy using Board Builder in a variety of ways. They created posters to advertise their business, found images in DE to create 6 word stories, and use the Board to collect information on a topic of interest.

How are you involved in education aside from your role as educator?
This is my second year on the MACUL Board of Directors and it has been a wonderful experience. I am working with outstanding educators who are passionate about igniting learning in teachers and students and I love being part of the planning our annual conference. I share ways I integrate technology in the classroom by writing articles for the MACUL Journal. I share what my students are doing on our classroom Kidblogs as well as on my Discovery Education blog.IMG_7404

What advice do you give to a teacher who is hesitant to use digital media in their classroom?
He who hesitates is lost! Students are surrounded by technology and digital media and we need to use these tools to our educational advantage. Digital media engages students, it takes them places textbooks never could, and it gets their attention and once you have their attention, you can teach them.

What advice do you have for first year teachers?
Join the DEN and Remember that you are still learning. Talk to the other teachers in your building and find a mentor in your building and another outside your building ( the DEN can help here!) Make sure you are connected to other educators via Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo, and ask questions, share ideas. You are not alone!

IMG_0428What sites do you visit to assist in your teaching practice?
I learn from other educators daily by visiting Twitter, Facebook, and favorite blogs. Often my learning begins with a link shared on Twitter or Facebook and leads me to connecting with that educator, or visiting their blog. I love to see projects and ideas shared by teachers in the classroom, especially ones that I can easily duplicate with my students.

What other organizations/groups are you a part of?
I am on the MACUL Board of Directors (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) and was thrilled to have a large DEN turnout at the Conference this year. I am also part of M-A-N-S (Michigan Association for Non-Public Schools) and will be presenting at the next conference in the Fall.

What is your most memorable experience with the DEN?
The DEN Summer Institutes are all memorable in many ways. I meet great new people each time I attend, and get to reunite with friends from previous Summer Institutes. I learn so much during the Institute and for months after as I share and see what others have shared. I am still in touch with those I met at my first DENSI, as well those I met last summer.

When you’re not working, where are we most likely to find you?
This summer you will find me at Pinkie’s Ice Cream and Desserts in Grand Rapids. I am a partner in this new ice cream shop and I love to scoop it and eat it. Caramel, Caramel, Caramel is my favorite flavor.
When I take a break from scooping, I like to read, watch movies, or go outside and do some gardening or just sit and enjoy the backyard.

What is your favorite kind of donut?
Fried Cinnamon with Chocolate Icing

How can others connect with you?
Twitter @scout7,,
Class wiki –,
Class blog –


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