Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your teaching background?
I work with 8 elementary schools doing coding and programming as a Media Specialist. I get to work two full days a week at Loess Hills Elementary, which never feels like enough time. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught library in different capacities. I did 1:1 computers at the high school level and got “the tech bug.” We started a student help desk and trained students to repair computers for each other. Now, Loess Hills is going 1:1, and the high school students are working on the computers and bringing them to the elementary school kids.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love seeing kids “get it.” That look on their face when something becomes meaningful; a connection to the world, the class, or to each other. I see it a lot with coding- when one student gets it and they want to show someone else. It’s amazing to see them buy into it, feel proud, even be a little amazed with themselves. I often see it in coding with the kids who struggle a little more, and it’s such an eye opener for the students who typically get everything right away. It’s a huge boost of self esteem for kids who aren’t always in the position to be the “go to” person for help from their classmates.
Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?
It teaches so many problem solving skills and kids see that there are multiple ways to do things. Students start learning that we can do things differently and recognize that they can use their own skills to come up with a plan and make it happen. Our kids are maybe missing that in other areas. Technology promotes collaboration to solve problems and teamwork.
What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom?
I worked with a small group of 2nd graders last year and we had a student arrive from another country and was very far behind. Building a relationship with her through working on coding together and solving problems really helped her progress. Coding helped us build a relationship, give her self confidence, and help her adjust. That’s what I love about kids and coding- they know that a mistake just means try again; it’s okay to try a few times.
What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?
Our story is interesting because we started with a cohort of teachers (1 in each grade grade) bringing coding into the classroom. Scheduling was probably the biggest challenge; I travel and can only be at Loess Hills two days a week. I want to be able get into the classrooms more, time is always a challenge.
What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?
I want to be the Kodable guru that everyone can go to! I want to learn every part of the program, so I need to make time go through it all myself. Coding doesn’t come that easy to me, and I want to learn everything about what you guys are designing so I can help my teachers get it into their classrooms.
We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?
I love to read. I have three daughters, but I try to take 30 minutes a day for uninterrupted alone time. Sometimes it’s listening to a book in my car during my commute; I love getting taken away into a story for a bit.
What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?
To become a lifelong learner. It scares me how many adults just focus on work and life and stop learning. You have to be willing to reevaluate your work and make changes. Ask yourself, “How can I make myself better?” Always keep learning, don’t get stuck in a debilitating rut.
Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching?
I have four kids, and we live on a farm. My daughters raise their own cattle and our family does the fair circuit. We enjoy the farm life activities; I like to leave the city and get to go home to my family on the farm.
Feeling inspired by Polly’s story? Register your free account today and bring coding to your students like Polly has.Teacher of the Week: Polly Meissner by Brie Gray