Maureen Thornton


Subject(s)/Grade(s) taught at current assignment:
Middle Grades ESL Instructor
 M.S. Administration and Supervision, UMSL, St. Louis Missouri
 B.S. Elementary Education, Harris Stowe University, St. Louis Missouri
 B.A. Special Education, BD, LD, and MR
Short Bio: Born and raised in Missouri with 5 brothers and one sister. I have always been a teacher. I remember playing school everyday with my brothers and I was always the teacher. Telling them what to do and how to do it. My professional life began teaching in a self contained behavioral disordered classroom. After three years in this environment I received a new position with the public school teaching 2nd grade students. From this experience I then sought and obtained a middle grade teaching assignment for seven years. During these years I also coached track and field, volleyball and basketball at the high school. From there I returned to get my Master of Education Degree and became an Assistant Principal and soon landed the job as Principal of an inner –city middle school in Florida. I have worked in many different educational arenas during my 20+ years. I have never worked outside of education since I begin working. So it is easy for me to say, “I am Passionate about Education!”
Favorite Teaching Strategy, Philosophy, Researcher, etc.: There is active discourse and experimentation in holistic models of education that has much to offer international education. In international development, holistic generally refers to the integration of various facets of life such as economics, livelihood skills, health education and nutrition into education. Holistic education also attempts to nurture the development of the whole person - this includes the intellectual, emotional, physical, social, aesthetic and spiritual (J. Miller 2005). The aim of holistic teaching is to facilitate a more fully integrated learning experience rather than the fractured and alienated learning experience and consequent life experience produced by much modern Western pedagogy (Orr 2005). Both here in the US and in other countries such as India, educational thinkers have stressed the necessity to gear education to the whole child. This thinking tends to be outside of the mainstream of educational thinking. Yet looking at the whole of a child’s life is necessary when education is being used as a tool of transformation, empowerment and change.
As I ventured into the classroom I became an advocate of Marzano’s “classroom management theory and instructional methodologies.” For me the one that I most use is “Backward Design” where one begins planning with the end in mind. Where you ask yourself, “At the end of this lesson what do I want the students to be able to do?” I then write my over arching learning goals and then the assessment. From the assessment, I write the lessons plans to ensure that I am hitting each component of the final assessment from that unit or topic….” For me it works.
If someone walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would they see and hear?
With Teacher-Directed Learning you will see students:  Paying attention (alert, tracking with their eyes)  Taking notes (particularly Cornell)  Listening (as opposed to chatting, or sleeping)  Asking questions (content related, or in a game, like 21 questions or I-Spy)  Responding to questions (whole group, small group, four corners, Socratic Seminar)  Following requests (participating, Total Physical Response (TPR), storytelling, Simon Says)  Reacting (laughing, crying, shouting, etc.) With Student-Directed Learning you see students individually or in small groups:  Reading critically (with pen in hand)  Writing to learn, creating, planning, problem solving, discussing, debating, and asking questions)  Performing/presenting, inquiring, exploring, explaining, evaluating, and experimenting)  Interacting with other students, gesturing and moving To boil the descriptions above down and get at the essence of student engagement, whether for teacher-directed learning or student-directed learning, engaged means students are active. Is that surprising? I shouldn't think so. If true learning is to occur, then students have to be at the very least participants in the process, and not merely products.
Activity and Ownership I believe that the majority of teachers pick up on the audience cues as they direct-teach and can tell if a student is not interested or not engaged. Most teachers act on what they see and adjust their instruction to try to engage all of their students. However, no matter how hard teachers work at making it interesting, a lecture is still a lecture, and having students simply listen is still a passive action. The solution is simple: If a teacher wants to increase student engagement, then the teacher needs to increase student activity -- ask the students to do something with the knowledge and skills they have learned. Break up the lecture with learning activities. Let them practice. Get them moving. Get them talking. Make it so engaging that it will be difficult for students not to participate. The ultimate engagement is to put the learner in charge of learning. Create a rich learning environment and a motivation to learn, and the students do all the hard work of learning, while the teacher merely facilitates. It sounds so easy. I do not minimize the hard work involved in creating those rich learning scenarios, custom-made motivators and engaging learning content. And it is a bit risky. Sometimes it works like a charm, and other times it would have been better to assign seat work. But we keep trying, improving, and enhancing until we get it right.
Tell about a successful behavior management strategy you have used in the past that helped engage a pupil or group of pupils? To keep students on task I move around the room. I ask them questions and for every response points are given. I try hard to create lessons and present them so students are open to engaging in the lessons. I also use peer teams. They keep each other tuned to the lessons to gain their classroom participation points.
If you overheard some colleagues talking about you, what would they say? She is an awesome teacher! The students really like her and she can get the shy ones to engage in her lessons. She is energetic, and funny but focused on the learning at hand. She is well prepared and genuinely loves teaching and interacting with her students. The staff is very fond of her as well. She interacts with her team openly and offers to go the extra mile to help and get to know her colleagues. She is fun to be around and believes education is very important. Yes, she is a dresser. I like her style. I am amazed at the athletic abilities too, though Maureen is climbing the aging ladder she can still hold her own in many sports arenas…
What are the key qualities and skills that students look for in teachers? In the classroom I believe my students first want to know if I care about them. They want lessons that allow them to engaged and interact with classmates. They want a teacher that is humors, one with classroom management to ensure learning is taking place and an environment where learning is FUN. They want lessons that have multiple dimensions to them where whole group, small group and partnering can enhance the lessons. They really enjoy learning games that are aligned to the lessons. Finally a teacher that discipline guidelines are fair, open, yet administer in a kind and caring manner.
Discuss the classroom routines and procedures that you employ; include how you establish and implement them and how you respond to inappropriate behavior. I stand at my door and greet the classes that enter my room. I review my classroom guidelines with the students until they become routine. I use a visual aid to make behavioral marks as the class engages in the lessons. I do not believe in taking points away once given, so I will only give positive points on the board. When the students see that their seat is not getting points, they will personally readjust the behavior and once I see the effort I acknowledge it with points on the board. The class is aware of the total number of points needed to pull from the cookie jar at the end of the week. This is a ten minute reward that is given once every two weeks and the students are so in tuned to the behavioral management format that they monitor it and I simply oversee it… They like jeopardy, charades, Bingo and other treats found in the cookie jar.
Describe how you convey the importance of the content and your expectations for achievement. My students know that I have high expectations for all of my students. I take time to prepare my lessons to ensure I am reaching the learning styles of my students. I write the lessons so students are able to immediately pull from that topic and use it in their daily life interactions. I high five my students, I encourage them to try, I celebrate the small steps because those steps lead to bigger steps. I am sensitive to the tone of the class and when lessons are not making the mark, I can effectively switch the instructional method and bring a change to the classroom environment. Every day is a NEW day and every STUDENT has a new chance to engage in the lesson.
Anything else you’d like to include as a “Star Teacher” ? I believe I work for the BEST company in China. We are family oriented, friendly and transparent. They work to solve issues that arise and go the extra mile to celebrate great teaching. If you have not joined in on the company monthly trips, take time to join us and see some awesome places China has to offer…