“Be open and collaborative. Be willing to learn from others and share your knowledge. Remember that the job we do is for ALL kids.” – Beth Hamilton, USA

As principal at Medina Elementary School in Washington State, Beth Hamilton and her team strive to prepare their students for life-long learning, and see technology as an integral part of what they do each day. And while each day is different for Hamilton and team, one day in 2012 stood out not only for the teachers and the administrators as well: when they met President Obama. “Oh my gosh! All their little faces lit up!” said Hamilton. “It was pouring down rain and all the kids were lined up and he went down the line and shook every child’s hand; about 450 kids.”

While an event as monumental as meeting the president doesn’t happen each day, Hamilton believes her daily work is just as significant. “Our important work as educators is for the students and if we can step out of our comfort zones and are willing to try something new to engage and teach students, it is worth the hard work, sweat, fear, and sometimes even tears, especially when you see the ’lightbulb‘ turn on in the students!”

It’s my pleasure to share today’s Daily Edventure with Beth Hamilton.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

I have always been a person to just “try it.” I think my willingness to try new things and learn from them has led me to be the leader I am today. I am always telling my teachers, “Try it, if you think it will support the students and their learning!” and “What could you do differently to engage one more student?” Or “Find a different way to present, facilitate, or share information for students to learn.”

What has changed as a result of your efforts? 

As a new leader, I hope that as I continue to embrace innovation and work with my staff, it will continue to change the way we engage students in learning.  I believe that with the professional development we continue to do as a staff around instruction, the stress of collaboration, and the data we have access to will continue to drive our instruction so that each child can be engaged and learning something new at all times.  The effort put forth by our entire school team to focus on enriching students’ lives and preparing them for life, not just teaching facts out of a book, will continue to be the change agent in ensuring each child leaves Medina Elementary School well on their way to being college and career ready.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I don’t see it as me applying technology, but as we (my entire school team) applying technology.  We see technology as a seamless part of our school and continue to refine the ways we as teachers, administrators, and the students use it to learn.

  • One key way we have used technology as educators is to collect data to drive our instruction. Our grade level teams use Senteo Clickers to administer pre-tests in math and other subject areas to analyze and plan instruction. This gives us the most current data to ensure we are teaching and facilitating learning for each individual student.
  • We have students use technology to share with each other. Our technology team (4-5th grade students) along with teachers and technology support, produce the Daily News which is a four to five-minute video newscast daily to share all school news such as the lunch menus, recess expectations, awards, short video commercials on a variety of school related topics, and more. It builds community in our school and provides a way for over 60 students in our 4-5th grades to use their skills and passion to create this newscast for our student body!

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

The best opportunity for innovation in education is open-minded educators.  There is opportunity out there and educators need to be able and be encouraged to take risks and try new instructional strategies to benefit student learning.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Be open and collaborative. Be willing to learn from others and share your knowledge.  Remember that the job we do is for ALL kids.  Make sure if you find something that works to educate your students, that you share it with your colleagues (in your school, district, state, country and beyond!) so they, too, can use it to support and teach their students.  The more we share and work together – the better educated our students will be!

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

One trend I see that is supporting student learning is teacher professional development and collaboration.  The more teachers share and work together to instruct students, the more engaging, enriching learning students receive! The work I have seen that is most powerful for students are the teachers who have collaborated together to plan instruction based on student data, create formative assessments to ensure learning, and calibrate their scoring of assessments. This directly translates to intentional teaching in the classroom where learning is happening for all.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

If I were to give each student a “tool” it would be a teacher who supported each child with intentional instruction and planning around their education so that he or she would understand how important and fun learning can be inside and outside the classroom.  The tool (a mindset of learning) then leaves the schoolhouse with them and each student begins to see that learning is fun and is all around you no matter what your age! Students of all ages would embrace learning, be curious, and take every opportunity to learn something new and share their knowledge with others in school and outside of school- it would be the “cool thing to do.”

About Beth Hamilton

  • Birthplace: Portland, Oregon
  • Current residence: Bellevue, Washington
  • Education: BA Psychology from University of Puget Sound, Masters in Teaching K-8 from Willamette University, WA State Principal Certification from University of Washington, Danforth Program
  • Website I check every day: Bellevue School District (www.bsd405.org), ASCD Smartbriefs which lead me to a variety of edublogs, articles, etc. from around the country about education, and Facebook
  • Person who inspires me most:My Parents:
    •  My Dad- Dr. Richard Davies – He is the person who is always there to support you through the good times and bad. He knows when to give advice, when to just “be” and when to throw in a little humor! He is a person that puts others’ needs, whether that is his family, his friends, or his patients, first, and someone who always stands up for those he loves and cares for.
    • My Mom- she is the epitome of unconditional love and a shoulder to lean on at all times. She has been my “go to” for parenting advice and a friend to talk to when you just need someone to listen.  She has the biggest heart of anyone I know and I strive to be like her.
  • Favorite childhood memory: TWO FAVORITE MEMORIES:
    • Vacations with my family. I will never forget bringing history alive while in Washington, D.C. when I was in middle school, the fun vacations to Disneyland, camping trips to Yellowstone Park, the beach, and more. Good old fashioned fun with the family which left me with experiences to last a lifetime!
    • CAMP – I went to camp every summer from age eight until I became a camp counselor at the same camp when I was 16.  They were the weeks in the summer I learned how to be independent, stand up for what I believed in, make friends, and that the world was much bigger than my small town of Canby, Oregon!
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Visiting family in Oregon and California.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Every night I laugh at my 8-year-old son. His rich vocabulary and silly sense of humor put together leaves my husband, Alex, and I in stitches daily!
  • Favorite book: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry… I could read it a million times and still ponder over what happened in that era, cry my eyes out, and remember reading it to my 5th graders as a first-year teacher learning, laughing, crying, and wondering together!
  • Favorite music: Contemporary Christian
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” – Margaret Mead
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