Today I am linking up with Blog Hoppin’ for Teacher Week. As a newer blogger it’s great to have so many excellent examples out there and people so willing to collaborate. Who am I, and why did I start blogging?

My name is Melanie and I have taught for 12 1/2 years. The 1/2 because last fall I had my second baby and decided to stay home after second quarter. My husband had just started a new job, so I was prepared to finish out the year, but, things worked out better for us this way. It was very difficult to leave a class mid-year, especially since my last job was a 4/5 split meaning half of my kids I had the year before as 4th graders. I was already so attached! As you can imagine, being with my own kids full-time, I quickly adjusted to the stay-at-home life. This year I will still be home, but teaching is fresh in my mind. I wanted to stay connected to the field so I’ve been sharing some of my work from home, and following others’ blogs. This is why I started blogging.

I am originally from Michigan, but have lived in Arizona for the last 6 years. I was SOOO happy to get out of the snow and endless weeks of overcast skies that I did not really mind the 110 degree summer days. My husband and I met online! YES! He was in Italy with the Navy at the time. I was in Michigan teaching first grade and had no intention of meeting anyone out of state, but life has a way of redirecting us. We started emailing, and became friends. A month or two later we started talking on the phone and having “Skype dates” long distance. He was so sweet and adorable, and we had so much in common as far as our lifestyle, values, and attitudes, we totally clicked. We decided to meet in person about 8 months after we’d started talking. He flew to Michigan to stay with me and my family for one week, and I flew to Arizona to meet his family the next week. Here’s the first moment we met in person – July, 2008 Detroit Airport. Awww! This is my favorite picture of us.

I had already told my principal that I wasn’t returning to the first grade classroom the following year because I intuitively felt that I needed to try something else. I had taught second grade for four years, middle school for one year, and first grade for two. I love LOVE the little guys and they are so adorable, but as an introvert I found it wearing to be in one room with so much energy all day! I started looking for jobs and apartments on my visit to Arizona. He went back to Italy and I was hired over the phone for a gifted resource job a few weeks later. My brother and sister helped me drive cross-country, and I started my new job the third week of August. He was released early from the Navy to go back to school, and we were engaged the next summer. He proposed in Sedona – THE most beautiful place in Arizona!
I don’t tell this story too often because it sounds so crazy! I am typically very rational, but I do believe in following my own intuition and when it’s right, you know it! We have been married for 4 years; we have one honey-moon baby boy who’s now 3 1/2, and a newer baby girl who will be one year in September! I’m planning a princess party. Here’s my two cuties.

They get along famously when she’s not grabbing his toys and he’s not jealous about her getting attention!

My family comes first in my life – absolutely. I am also a faithful Catholic which can freak some people out, especially if you grew up believing Catholics are weird or outdated. For us it’s just another aspect of our culture, family history, and personal experience. My husband and I both went to Catholic school, as well as our parents; and I started out teaching in Catholic school before I moved to Arizona. I am not likely to ever mention religion again, because it’s so personal and too political for my taste, but I do have a strong biblical faith life. I believe that everyone has a spirituality of some kind, whether they consciously choose it or not. My kids were baptized at a few weeks old, and my husband and I were happy to be the god-parents of twin nieces this past May.

Son’s Baptism at 2 weeks old.

Daughter’s Baptism at 3 weeks old.
Cute little Australian nieces. (My husband is holding our daughter.)

I spend most of my time right now entertaining my kids, and since Isaac is 3 1/2 we’re still potty-training and working on some pre-school skills. He loves puzzles, blocks, and cooking! You wouldn’t believe how well this kid can peel a carrot or potato. He also peels garlic, and most recently has been helping to crack and scramble eggs. We also like to do arts and crafts. He just got into coloring which is great because he’s busy by himself for longer. We made this Easter bunny in April. Yes, I did most of the paper mache, but he did the painting!

I always loved art projects with my students and wish there was more class time for it. Especially in math or science, there are so many ways to integrate kinesthetic or visual-spatial skills!
Where? Where? Where? As I mentioned, I am at home this year, but my most recent job was teaching gifted resource students at two Title I schools in the Kyrene district. I loved this job the best so far, for so many reasons! It was very difficult to feel like I was doing a good job at first. I was going to school to get certified while I learned form experience teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade gifted kids reading and math classes. I also taught 2 reading intervention periods a day. After a few years the program changed and we welcomed advanced kids as well as gifted qualified students into class. Third grade became a classroom cluster experience, and I continued to be the replacement core teacher for 4/5 split classes at two schools.  This experience was very unique because I got to see the breadth and variety of issues behind qualifying and teaching gifted kids in a mixed context. Differentiation was not just a theory in my class, but a necessity, because not all of my pull-out students were actually gifted. I also noticed huge variations in the performance and strengths of individual students which didn’t seem at all connected to their qualification “status.”
More on this topic in future posts – briefly I will say, I learned that there is a lot more to being a successful student than IQ tests. SO many kids from less fortunate circumstances go undetected for various reasons. I noticed that with the right attention and instruction they can also do amazing things! For any of you gifted advocates – keep up the GOOD WORK! Teaching qualified gifted kids can be controversial in some people’s minds, but these kids also really need the right kind of attention – NO they are not smart enough to guide themselves in the regular classroom, they are KIDS! first and foremost! I am a big advocate for social-emotional education of all children, especially low-income and gifted kids. I really believe that focusing on an entire child’s being can help to understand and guide them in ways that don’t happen when cognitive skills are stressed exclusively.
Thanks for stopping by to browse my work. I look forward to getting to know some of you! Don’t be shy about leaving comments or connecting with me on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I love hearing from others’ perspectives! God Bless you and your work!

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