Sunday, November 27, 2016

EdCamp Queen City: Makerspace, Motivation and Much More

By Dr. Nancy Betler

On October 1st the third annual EdCamp Queen City (@EdCampQC) was held at Barringer Elementary School in Charlotte NC.  EdCamps are an incredible trend in professional development where the participants guide the training.  I was fortunate to once again be part of a group of dedicated educators who organized this event.  It was an exciting Saturday of learning and growth!
The day started with an overview of EdCamps given by Nathan Stevens (@nathan_stevens).  Nathan shared how the day would run and that the participants had an opportunity to attend sessions that they felt best met their learning needs. The participants not only choose the sessions at EdCamps that will be offered that day but also decide which of those sessions best meet their individual professional needs.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the MakerSpace. In the MakerSpace teachers were able to test out and learn about different tools to use with their students.  Something new I learned about while in the MakerSpace was the augmented reality app Quiver (@quivervision).    Students are able to color and draw pictures and then see them come to life! This is a great tool to use with your students for story writing.  Since EdCampQC I have used this app with several of my students and have seen an increase in not only the amount of text but in the details in their writing.

Another tool that I enjoyed using that day was Sphero (@sphero).  I have used Sphero before with my students but loved seeing all the different Sphero options available.  The brainstorming of ideas with other participants was also amazing!  I learned new strategies to use with my students.  I came back after EdCampQC and was able to share a lesson, Rate Time and Distance, which another teacher suggested with my students.   This lesson is part of the SPRK education program website but I had never used it before.  My students loved it and I plan to use more lessons off the site.

Ozobot (@Ozobot) is a robot that I had heard about and seen in use but had never used myself prior to EdCampQC.  Ozobot is a tiny robot designed to teach kids coding and programming basics.  It is an engaging and easy robot to use with younger as well as older students.  One idea that was shared was having the Ozobot be Little Red Riding Hood and having Kindergartners code how she gets to Grandma’s House!  With Ozobot students have the opportunity to be creative and have fun while they learn.     


Bloxels Builders (@bloxelsbuilders) is another tool that I was able to use in new ways as a result of the MakerSpace.  Bloxels is a hands-on platform that gives kids a chance to build, collaborate and tell stories through video game creation.   There is a free app available as well as a board that you can purchase.  I am currently hoping to get five sets of the board through my Donors Choose ( project.  One teacher in the MakerSpace shared how she is using Bloxels to help students visualize their creations prior to writing.  This is just one idea I hope to use in the future with my students.

I love MakerSpaces and found the one at EdCampQC to be extremely valuable. I spent a lot of my time at EdCampQC in the Makerspace.  I appreciated sharing and learning about strategies and resources to use with my students.  I finally left the area to attend other sessions but found it to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

After leaving the MakerSpace I went to the session on Breakout EDU (@BreakoutEDU).  Although there were many valuable and interesting sessions available this another area that really peaked my interest.  I had attended a session on Breakout EDU at EdCamp Foothills (@Edcampfoothills) but wanted to learn even more about it.  I appreciated the participant and leader excitement and the group was able to breakout!  The more I see this tool in action the better I understand it and the different applications it can have in the classroom.  There are hundreds of free lessons on the Breakout Edu website and they are not only student but teacher friendly.  I love this creative tool and look forward to using it with my students.

As I end this blog post I feel that it is important to note that EdCamps are made even more special through the support that teachers receive from the different educational companies. Squirrels (@squirrels) donated our lunch that day. Yum!  It made everyone’s day to feel so appreciated. Teachers also had the chance to win fabulous door prizes to use in their classroom.   As I have said before it is fantastic that so many different education companies understand the value of EdCamps.  Thank you to Squirrels and all the other companies that donated that day!

EdCamps are amazing and I love to attend them.  I always leave with new strategies and ideas.  I also love the fact that I helped to make this particular EdCamp a success.  I can’t wait to start planning the fourth EdCamp Queen City!

Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blended Learning for K-2 Students

4.jpgHave you been interested in blended learning in the K-2 classroom but are hesitant to dive in? Have you been told that your students are just too young to truly utilize Chromebooks and tablets? Think again! Read on to find out how two second grade teachers transformed their classrooms into a blended learning environment and how it has impacted their students.

Last year, various teachers across Franklin County participated in a series of professional development sessions know as “EmpowerED”. These were led by Dr. Lisa Hervey from The Friday Institute at NC State. I (Alyssa) had the privilege of being part of this team! In these sessions, we  focused on stepping out of our comfort zone and integrating technology in various ways across the curriculum.  At first,  as a second grade teacher, I was thinking “how could I ever get my kids to do this!” But luckily in each session we got “PLEARN” time, where I could use the tools and start creating things that could work for my students. Before I knew it, my excitement for blended learning grew! As soon as I got back, I pulled Claire into my room and showed her EVERYTHING we did! She jumped right on board with me and we started planning how we could make this work! To start, we focused just on the “substitution” step of the SAMR model. This seemed most realistic for our students who still struggled to log in, find the keys on a keyboard, and know how to work a mouse!

As soon as Alyssa filled me (Claire) in on what they had been doing in their sessions, I was instantly hooked - and I knew that if WE were this excited about it, our kids would be over the moon! As Alyssa mentioned, we knew that we had to keep it simple to start with - and, full disclosure - majority of the time, we are still in the “substitution” phase of the SAMR model. Make sure that if you are wanting to implement some of the things we discuss, you move at a pace that works for YOUR students - if you throw too much at them too quickly, you won’t have the outcome you’re hoping for. Start small, and start smart.

6.jpgWe know that the distribution of technology across classrooms in North Carolina (and the country itself) is grossly unequal. There are classrooms that are 1:1, and unfortunately there are also classrooms that consider themselves lucky to even have one desktop. The best part about implementing this model of blended learning is that with creative planning, it can be done with any amount of devices. When we started this journey, we each had two Chromebooks, two tablets, andtwo desktops (did we mention that we had 27 students? Don’t let your class size deter you either!) See if you can borrow technology from other grade levels - chances are that someone is at lunch or recess during the time that your kids might need devices and hopefully they are willing to share! Donor's Choose is another great option! Organize who is using which device in a way that makes sense to both you and your kids. Labels will save your sanity - assign certain students to each device so that their log-ins can be stored and they won’t have to enter their usernames/passwords each time. Alyssa is a master at organizing  the devices in a way that was equal for our students - she was able to create a rotation schedule that gave students both individual time and time to work with one another on the computers. This set-up was honestly the most time consuming part - but the payoff is worth it!

2 - Copy.jpgSlide2.PNG9.jpgWe chose to focus on implementing blended learning in ELA last year. Students had specific schedule cards (see Trevor’s on the left) and a log-in sheet inside their “Blended Folder” with every username and password they will need!  That way they have a one stop shop for log-ins for any activity they are doing! Utilize free sites first - ReadTheory, Epic, ReadWorks, TenMarks, and Prodigy  are just a few sites where you can create profiles for your students and track their progress. Google  is a life-saver when it comes to linking websites and assignments for your students. Tackk is also a great tool to link websites in one common area that is kid friendly and teacher friendly!  EDpuzzle can also be linked through Google Classroom and you can use it to create a video lesson on nearly any topic you teach! Keep an  out for grants and trials that some websites run. We were fortunate last year to receive a year’s subscription to Headsprout simply by applying for their teacher grant. The money is out there! 

No matter the amount of devices you have access to, the resources that your school allows you to use, or your number of students - the most important thing to remember is that you have to start SOMEWHERE. Choose one subject area and focus on that. Trying to implement blended learning across your curriculum from the start will more than likely leave both you and your students frustrated. Find another teacher to collaborate with. They don’t have to be in your grade level or even at your school - but you will need someone to bounce ideas off of and reflect on the process in general with. Our students will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet - if we aren’t putting devices in their hands and getting them to collaborate with one another (both in-person and online), then we are doing them a great disservice. Our students are our future and as teachers we need to prepare them as much as possible to be successful! 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions! We would be more than happy to help you and your students! 


About the Authors

Alyssa Kinary grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated from The College of Saint Rose with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education and a MSED in Literacy. This is her third year teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary School in Louisburg, North Carolina. She is currently a part of the EmpowerED and Differentiation teams for Franklin County Schools. 

Contact email:

Claire Roehl is in her fifth year of teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary in Louisburg, NC. She graduated with her B.A. in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Elementary Education, both from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Gamma Tau chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, is a board member of the Franklin County Education Foundation and was recently selected as Franklin County’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. 

Contact email:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Reflections & Connections on 13th Elementary School Conference

Our 13th Annual NCAEE Conference was last weekend and my brain is still reeling from all of the fabulous information I learned.


Hearing Kim Bearden was an experience I will never forget.  She is such an inspiration!

Kim reminded me that I always need to forgive others.  I need to find my passion and focus on the art of teaching.  I must remain positive and surround myself with people that are great examples of teaching. Above all, when a teacher has an effect on a child, you essentially affect thousands of others.


I was able to make connections with so many people in so many ways.  Social Media is a great tool with which to gain ideas and connect.  My followers on Twitter tripled and I am anxious to see how they push me to become a better teacher!  I even made friends with people outside of my county!  I love my PLN!


I learned so much through the sessions!  Justin Ashley is such a creative teacher!  He inspires me to take my learning to a whole new level with making my classes more exciting!  I now want to be Ms. Frizzle in Science Class!

Jamie Deming really helped me to see Interactive Notebooks in a whole new light.  I want them to be truly interactive and student-centered, not solely teacher-directed.

Laura Candler motivated me to become a better grant writer and to list more on Donors Choose.  She had some fabulous ideas.  They are so easy to implement and every little bit helps when it comes to your classroom!

Kathy Bumgardner is always fabulous!  My reading lessons have never been the same since I heard her speak the first time.  She has created ingenious tools to help students take ownership of their learning.  They are so simple to use that I was able to go back to school on Wednesday and use them!

Jen Jones had fabulous ideas on how to market my TPT account and make some money!  I really enjoyed learning some great ways to “expand my brand” and supplement my teacher salary.

Vendors and Door Prizes

We had some fabulous vendors from
various publishers, to IESS, and the Biltmore House!  We even had jewelry, purses, and GoNoodle!

There were giveaways and prizes galore!  At the end of the event, some teachers took home prizes from NCAEE or our various vendors.  Who wouldn’t want to win a trip for two to the Biltmore House?

I wish I had been lucky enough to win a door prize, but there is always next year.  I do, however, feel like I won something else: more knowledge to take back to my classroom, more experiences, and more friends that inspire me to become a better teacher.  I cannot wait for our regional conference in the Spring and for next year’s State Conference!

About the Author

Megan Charlton is a third grade STEM Teacher at Patriots STEM Elementary School in Concord, NC.  She has taught Kindergarten, Fifth Grade and Third Grade.  She is in her 12th year of teaching, all of which have been in North Carolina.  She graduated from Kentucky Christian University with a B.S. In Elementary Education and Bible.  Mrs. Charlton has recently joined the NCAEE Board as Teacher At Large.  She blogs at

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning is Clear!

Teachers care for their students. We care that they grow cognitively, socially, physically, and emotionally. It is why we do what we do. In order to help students reach their full potential, it is critical to purposefully support their social and emotional development by teaching and modeling social and emotional strategies. Doing so impacts other areas of development, including academic achievement. Research shows:

  • 83% of students make academic gains when they have learned about social and emotional strategies.
  • 11% is the average gain on standardized tests for students who learn social and emotional strategies.
  • Social and emotional learning improves behaviors and attitudes toward school and prevents substance abuse. 
  • 11% is the average increase in GPA for participation in one program focused on social and emotional strategies.

How can I teach social and emotional learning? 

Begin by modeling successful Emotional Literacy. Students need to be able to label the emotions they are feeling and the emotions others are feeling. Teachers have accomplished this through having students check in as they enter the classroom and select how they are feeling with popsicle sticks and pocket charts, smart board use, and through drawings. This becomes part of their morning meeting and/or classroom routine and is discussed to model successful labeling of emotions in self and others. Teachers have used read alouds and created prompts matched to the text to ask student how characters feel throughout in the story. Using the read alouds they typically use, teachers have asked students to write on white boards, hold up feeling cue cards, and share responses in order to label characters’ emotions. 

How can I foster social and emotional development?

Once you determine how you will engage your students in these learning opportunities, you can determine where your students are growing along a developmental progression and support their development to the next step using the construct progressions developed by the Office of Early Learning. Moving their development to the next step and modeling how to get there is key to their ongoing growth and development. 

Once students can label emotions, they can learn to regulate their emotions. Again, modeling success is important. Students need to see and understand what it looks like to successfully regulate their emotions. You can discover what this looks like and model it for your students using the Emotion Regulation construct progression provided by the Office of Early Learning. 

Both of these construct progressions can be found here for your use: Emotional Literacy  and Emotion Regulation 

The Office of Early Learning is hosting several sessions this year at the 13th Annual Elementary School Conference in October. Join us to learn more about supporting student growth and nurturing the whole child! Register here today!

About the Author:

Dr. Cindy Dewey serves on the Board of Directors for NCAEE as the NCDPI At-Large Director. At NCDPI, Cindy serves as an educational consultant in the Office of Early Learning on the K-3 Formative Assessment Team. Cindy’s teaching experience spans elementary, middle, high school, and university levels. She also served as a literacy coach, building administrator, and central office administrator prior to joining NCDPI. This is Cindy’s fourth year serving NCAEE. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Summer to Serve: 4 Lessons I Didn't Know I Needed

Working in Nicaragua for a month was the best preparation for starting my first year of teaching because it taught me hard lessons through experience that I was not aware that I needed to learn before going into a school as a new educator. Here are some lessons all of us should consider as educators and role models.

1. Relationships are a lot of work, but crucial to any and every profession. I returned to work at an organization after being gone for ten months and was able to jump right back into continuing to build relationships with colleagues and students. It was an amazing experience to reconnect with people that felt like family even though they were 3,000 miles away. On the flip side of that experience, there were many relationships that needed a lot of work. I had not put much effort into those because they required more of me. The same is true in any school. First year teachers will have to work with parents, colleagues, and students, and some of the hardest relationships may be the most important. That person that might not seem too significant or that we do not feel like we have time for on a crazy day deserves attention and is worth the relationship!

2. Be passionate and appreciative! It is so easy to get caught up in looking for the perfect job in the best school or to complain about the space or supplies available to teachers, but is that the real reason that anyone chooses to go into education? For a big classroom and the highest quality paper? After working in a school where 52 students sat in one classroom the size of a very small American classroom and copied information out of a textbook all day, I am so thankful for the supplies afforded me here in the United States. I have always been a huge proponent of incorporating educational strategies from other countries to improve the education system in the US, and I still think there is room for that; however, I now have a much greater appreciation for the education system that is established here. I am so thankful for a better understanding and appreciation of the system that I will be working in because it will allow me to approach issues with more insight and a better attitude. We will all still have issues that are worth getting upset over, but let us not become so consumed by justified indignation that we lose sight of the daily goal - to impact students for the better.

3. Focus on the present and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you! I chose to go to Nicaragua the summer after graduating before I had a summer job or a teaching job for the upcoming school year. I spent a good amount of time worrying over what I would do when I returned to the states that I overlooked the opportunities right in front of me to invest in my Nicaraguan students. As a teacher it is easy to become discouraged during the school year and cling to the next break coming up or to looking for a new job, but in doing so, teachers are missing the current opportunities with students right in front of them. Even though it may seem like a long time, we only have from August to June to truly spend time with our students before they have moved on to the next adventure.

4. All of the Americans working in Nicaragua joked that we were "running on Nicaraguan time" which meant that a 9 o'clock meeting might happen at 9:30 or 10:30 or even 11:30. Working daily on Nicaraguan time was an adjustment, and while it was often very frustrating to plan a schedule, it taught me an appreciation for a different culture. Nicaraguan time was not the result of Nicaraguans being disorganized or unprofessional; the case was that their culture had different values. I learned to value taking time to communicate well with others instead of running through tasks each day. There is still something to be said for punctuality, but cultural appreciation is equally important. Working in this relaxed environment also meant that I had to take initiative and hold myself responsible for my own time. Over the course of a career in teaching, there may be times where colleagues and administrators are very invested in your work and your time, but there also comes a point where you are solely responsible for deciding how to budget time. Teachers must choose to work diligently for the sake of their students.

The thing about learning new lessons is that it is difficult and requires humility, but once learned, those lessons make you all the more prepared to tackle life as it comes at you. As a teacher, life comes at you fast with a new adventure every day, so let's take on a humble attitude, cherish our time with our students, and learn from those around us, rather we are in a rural town, an overpopulated city, or another country halfway across the world.

About the Author

Ainsley Gompf grew up in Jackson, TN. She recently graduated from High Point University with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish. She has loved her time in North Carolina and plans to stay in the area for her first year of teaching. When she is not in school she loves to travel, which is what lead her to work with El Ayudante in Leon, Nicaragua during her free time.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nurturing Passion, Purpose & Potential: An Inside Look at Our Upcoming Conference!

13th Elementary Conference

We are so excited to share details of our 13th Elementary Conference! This year's theme is Nurturing Passion, Purpose & Potential and will take place October 16th-18th. Once again, our conference will take place at the beautiful Charlotte-Concord Embassy Suites in Concord, NC. Concord, NC is minutes away from Charlotte and boasts many things to do, including Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord Mills, and a variety of different restaurants.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Kim Bearden, Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Language Arts Teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, is this year's luncheon keynote speaker.  She is also a best selling author and acclaimed educator who has received countless awards and recognition. Kim will motivate, inspire, and remind participants of the powerful impact that they can have, despite the pressures and challenges of their profession during her luncheon keynote: Creating a Climate and Culture of Success. Kim will also share the importance of building relationships among staff, families, and students that will motivate, engage, empower, and create success for all. She will share how to ignite a passion for learning, provide support and encouragement, hold high expectations for student behavior, promote parental involvement, and ensure a safe, secure environment for all.

Featured Speakers & Breakout Sessions

We have secured a fantastic lineup of featured speakers-- Jen Jones of Hello Literacy, former NCAEE President Laura Candler of Teaching Resources, Jaime Deming, Justin Ashley, Kathy Bumgardner, Eric Rowles will join us to share their expertise and nurture your passion for teaching! Their session  titles and descriptions can be accessed here.

Our Board of Directors recently met and selected presenters for our Fall Conference. Presenters will be notified by mid-June. We selected a wide range of presenters from throughout our state with varying levels of experience as educators. We are confident our participants will find sessions relevant and will be able to apply what they learn immediately. In fact, we think they will have a hard time selecting which ones to attend! From STEAM to Educator Effectiveness to Technology Integration, we've got it covered.

Enter for a Chance to Win! 

Has this post sparked your interest!? Would you like to attend our conference? Enter for a chance to win a FREE conference registration for the 2016 Elementary School Conference. Entering is easy! Check out the Rafflecopter below and complete easy tasks for entries, including comment on this blog post,  to win a free conference registration ($175 value!).

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Teaching in North Carolina, an International Teacher's Perspective

I think I was born with the ‘travel gene.’ Being from England, I love holidaying in warmer (and less rainy!) climates, but more than that, I enjoy seeing the day to day lives of different communities and immersing myself in new cultures. Being a teacher opens doors to experience these things, as well as developing new teaching practices, through teaching abroad. Two years ago, VIF Global Education offered me a teaching placement in North Carolina and I am currently teaching 2nd grade at Carolina Forest International Elementary School in Onslow County.

I’ll admit, I thought teaching here would be an easy transition from teaching in England. After all, I’d visited America before, spoke the same language, was an experienced teacher… how different could it be? It turns out, that first year of being a foreign teacher in North Carolina was one of the most rewarding yet challenging years of my teaching career so far.

To start with, the education system in NC compared with back home is totally different; more testing, the age to grade correlation, the standards and longer school days. I was used to writing one long report for each child at the end of the school year, so report cards every 9 weeks were a new concept. The amount of acronyms sometimes made it feel like I spoke a foreign language, and I’d never had to eat lunch with my class before (in England you get a lunch break). Turning up at school on day one, the biggest surprise for me was resources- how much teachers spend on resourcing their classroom, the concept of asking parents for donations and children bringing in their own supplies. This was all new to me, so arriving to an empty classroom was definitely daunting.

Thankfully, I was welcomed into Carolina Forest by a supportive principal, generous parents and colleagues that have become friends for life. Here I feel part of a team and I have been overwhelmed at times by people’s kindness. The school is a global community, teaching children to become globally aware, so as well as teaching staff and children about my culture, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about others including, obviously, American. I’ve experienced many things for the first time; spelling bees, pep rallies, teacher of the month awards, tornado drills, early release days, Thanksgiving, the pledge of allegiance each morning, the rules of football, biscuits and sweet tea, teacher appreciation week. Most of these are every day norms for NC folk, but the first time I saw an American school bus I got way too excited!

I may have come to North Carolina knowing that I would be teaching children, but what I didn’t realize was just how much they would teach me. Every day has brought about something new. In class, we have incorporated global learning into all areas of the curriculum, whether it be comparing dollars to pounds in math or writing letters to the Queen. My class’s English accents are now better than mine! I hope they have found it as fun an experience as I have.

Although teaching abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is definitely an experience I would recommend. Being a ‘foreign teacher’ in North Carolina has had its challenges for sure, but these challenges have been outweighed heavily by the positives. When I return back to the UK this summer, I will be taking with me an abundance of new knowledge and brilliant memories I will never forget.

Ms. Francesca Buckland is a second grade teacher in Onslow County. She has been teaching for 7 years and holds a degree in Applied Language Studies.  Ms. Buckland has always had a passion for travel, language and experiencing new cultures. She has worked in schools in Thailand, Australia and Fiji.