COLORADO’S ELEMENTARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR

Colorado Parents Rights, Responsibilities & Choice

COLORADO’S ELEMENTARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR

Postby yrisarryviv@mac.com on Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:19 pm

When you first listen to Mrs. Christina Narayan talk about online teaching, your immediate thought is “wow, how do the kids keep up with her?” Fast paced, energetic, and talking a mile a minute, Mrs. Narayan, a K-3 elementary school teacher at Branson School Online in Colorado, was voted 2009 Colorado Online Elementary Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). This was the second year of accepting applications of teachers from online schools.

Subsequently, she was asked by CDE Commissioner Dwight Jones to participate in the Stakeholders Assessment Committee, a statewide committee of 35 educational and workforce professionals convened to advise the department on the next generation of assessments. As new standards were adopted, new assessments are needed to measure students’ proficiency. Christina is the only teacher appointed to serve on this committee, bringing the perspective of a current teacher and her experience with applying online programs for instruction and assessment.

Mrs. Narayan, who was recognized at a recent rally for online education at the State Capitol in Denver, says,
“This experience drove home to me how important having an Online Teacher of the Year is in Colorado. This award shows that the Colorado Department of Education recognizes and supports online teachers, online learners and online families. Online education is an incredible option for many of our families and it is essential that choice continues in Colorado.”


“The Assessment Committee is even discussing some online testing as an option in the new assessment plan,”

adds Mrs. Narayan who notes that the award has not only helped online education on the whole gain recognition but also Branson.

“We’re a small school, but, an excellent online model for Colorado families. We offer a lot of hands-on education, more common in a brick and mortar school, than other online programs may.”

Citing the use of hard copy reading books, the mailing back and forth of assignments, and the display of digital work to showcase student’s projects, Mrs. Narayan explains
“Teaching should never be static-online or offline. It has to be constantly dynamic to engage children.”


Just having spent the morning on the phone with prospective parents who are interested in Branson, Mrs. Narayan is pleased that a number of these inquiries are now coming from the CDE website.
“When I ask parents how they heard about us, some have referenced the piece about my award posted on the site.”


Explaining the award, Mrs. Narayan says,
“One of the questions on the Teacher of the Year application is: “How are you being innovative with technology?”

Mrs. Narayan rhetorically answers,
“Just because you’re online, doesn’t make you innovative. You can put a text book online, but, that’s not innovative.”


Citing the Sixth Grade Buddy Program as an example, Mrs. Narayan, explains
“Every school has some form of a peer buddy program. With online schools you don’t see these collaborations as often. Last year, the sixth grade teacher and I worked together to make that happen. The kids would be online at the same time and the sixth graders would read to the kindergarten students who followed along in their own books. It was a positive experience for both grades.”


Mrs. Narayan, whose end quotation on her emails, reads: “Dream Big” has tremendous enthusiasm for the future of online education and the role it can play in shaping education.
“Online education is the perfect vehicle for my teaching philosophy. I majored in both Special Education and Elementary Education. I had excellent experiences student teaching in both areas. However, I saw students being left behind in the regular classroom when they couldn’t keep up with the class majority. I loved the individualization that was possible in Special Education so I looked for a job in this area and taught as a K-3 Resource Teacher.”


With seven years of online teaching experience at Branson School Online, Mrs. Narayan has been able to reach out to each and every student in an impactful way.
“I was immediately passionate about online education and about its possibilities to individualize for all students- with or without an IEP. I was drawn to what an online model would allow teachers to do for students.”


Using synchronous teaching and asynchronous teaching, Mrs. Narayan has developed a manual on what to do each day of the week.
“We’re on the computer and the phone together. I do one-on-one lessons and assessments with my students and then I conference with the parents as well. This happens every week. In a brick and mortar school, you usually only have parent-teacher conferences at the end of the quarter.”


Being an early education teacher, Mrs. Narayan understands the significant role she plays in helping shape the student’s academic success in the present and in the future.
"As a teacher, I am responsible for making sure their standards are reached. For this reason, I fervently support online education, as I believe that education must be individualized. Each student is unique with specific strengths, talents and learning styles. And every student can succeed with educational experiences that reflect their individuality.”


Mrs. Narayan, who loves new technological tools like QuickTime Pro and JING software for movie making, uses videos of herself giving spelling tests, teaching Social Studies, detailing projects and teaching other skill building lessons.
“It isn’t live. But, it’s me talking and my students doing the work to my instructions. The kids watch these lessons repeatedly at their own pace.”


Parents also play a key role in Mrs. Narayan school week.
“A lot of my first graders can read what they have to do for the week, but, the parents want to be involved. I think of parents as my personal teacher’s aide. Who wouldn’t love that? I have essentially a teacher’s aide for every kid in my class.”


With such excitement and dedication, there is no doubt that Mrs. Narayan’s students are getting the best of all possible teaching practices in her online classroom.

Applications for the 2010-2011 academic year will be available on the Branson School Online website as of March 15, 2010.

Contact: Judith Stokes, Branson School District, School Code: 0948.
Please Phone: 1-719-946-5531 or Toll free 1-888-863-7850 or click here for website: http://www.bransonschoolonline.com/
yrisarryviv@mac.com
Colorado Parent
 
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