Alyssa Magier: Creating a safe space for students to take ownership of their learning
Teacher Alyssa Magier of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College understands the importance of encouraging students to advocate for themselves but ensures that they know they're never alone on their learning journey.
When Alyssa Magier was in college, teaching was not on her radar at all. She had attended college for environmental studies, and expected she'd pursue something related to that field. However, after college, she returned home to figure out what the future held, and it was there she was offered a job to teach at a preschool, run by the synagogue she grew up attending. While at the preschool, she realized her affinity for teaching, and from there, she worked with Denver Math Fellows and obtained a master's in teaching. She's now in her fourth year of teaching.
Alyssa is a teacher who takes feedback seriously, whether that's from colleagues, coaches, or her students. She explained that this approach to teaching means that she's constantly improving and engaging with what works best for her students. One thing she's learned over the years is that students really respond to getting up and active. Alyssa said before tests, she turns revision into a game. Scavenger hunts, in particular, are a class favorite.
Aside from actively engaging with feedback, Alyssa understands that some students have had negative experiences with math in the past, and makes it her priority to set her students at ease. "Asking if they need help and offering it is important and I focus on trying to see for myself when they might need help without them asking for it." She explained anticipating students' learning needs can be helpful for those who get nervous asking questions. "I let them know that it's not a journey they have to take on their own," she said. That being said, Alyssa also prides herself on creating a safe environment where students can also advocate for themselves and take ownership of their own learning.
Alyssa said that she creates this safe environment by building strong relationships with her students. "Showing my students that I respect them and that I'm invested in their learning and success allows them to open up to me," she said. Likewise, Alyssa emphasized the importance of showing students that learning isn't a rigid, structured process, and there's room for conversation, math discussions and fun. For this reason, she said conversation tangents aren't necessarily a bad thing. "I think it fosters an environment where students are more motivated to listen, learn and invest in the work. It's all about finding the balance between having fun and keeping direction."
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Magier