“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question for children, but as adults, few atually fulfill the same career once considered in their youth. Melissa Irving, a two-time Teacher of the Year award-winner, is the exception.
Now a 15-year veteran in the field, the Flagler Schools, Florida educator reminisced on her own elementary days when her father installed a blackboard in the garage so she could play school with her three younger sisters. Assuming the role of the teacher, Melissa realized then that she loved helping her siblings learn, and her passion for education flourished from there. She now works for the same school district from which she graduated.
“Being a teacher was just kind of natural for me,” Melissa said. “I live for that ‘aha moment’. When you’re trying to get somebody to learn something and they finally get it and are proud of themselves. I live for that.”
Currently teaching fifth grade science and social studies, Melissa’s genuine love and talent for her career has been widely recognized on multiple occasions. Melissa won her schools’ Teacher of the Year award in 2008 and again in 2016. She was also recognized by USA Today in 2015 for her innovative idea to use stand up desks in her classroom.
Quizizz chatted with Melissa about her favorite engagement tools to keep kids motivated, and how she builds successful relationships with students. Read on to learn more:
As a teacher, what continues to inspire your career?
When I get smiles, and they’re excited for what we’re doing that day, I live for that. Nothing is better than happy kids. I definitely have a good rapport with students. And It’s not because I let them do whatever they want and play around, but students work hard for me because they know I care about them. That’s what motivates me in my career. When they’re happy, and they’re excited to share what they learned. I like that I can inspire kids, and create that kind of learning environment for them, and I would want the same for my daughter.
Can you describe a scenario when you really took your teaching to the next level?
I certainly believe in getting kids up and moving, so the decision to use standing desks in my classroom was a great way to keep students active and attentive. This year, following the shutdown and everything from the last couple years, I definitely had to go out of my comfort zone. I’ve leveled up by giving them more hands-on learning opportunities, but blending it with plenty of technology. So to do this, I actually partnered with another teacher to write grants. Thankfully, we were able get funding so we can make sure the kids can get their hands dirty with experiments, like watching the praying mantis life cycle, or pollinating flowers with freeze dried bees!
How did you and your colleagues come to find Quizizz, and what are your best practices for using it in the classroom?
The other teachers and I were looking for new ways to get the kids excited about a quick assessment. There used to be so many groans when we would take a quiz, so we looked into a few online learning platforms that proved to be really helpful with improving that.
Now, Quizizz is definitely one of the tools in my tool belt. Being able to sort by number of plays and having access to new materials, I thought, I’ve got to subscribe right now! I splurge on things to keep my kids motivated. School has to feel like fun! And I’ve always been a ‘techie’. I’ve always been attracted to new strategies I can bring into the classroom. I think, ‘What will look shiny to these kids?’ I’m always searching for the next thing.
Quizizz is one of those tools they’re excited to use. It elevates the excitement in the room for sure. They think they’re playing a game, and I’m in the corner laughing and thinking, ‘Hehe, that’s your quiz question!’ One time I heard a student say to another, “Watch out, Mrs. Irving is tricky. Just when you think you’re having fun, you realize it was learning the whole time!”
What is one of your proudest moments as an educator?
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the spotlight, I’d rather that my kids are recognized, but when I was named Teacher of the Year, each time it was definitely humbling. It was a great honor that my peers saw what I was doing and respected it, and wanted me to represent that school. That was definitely one of my proudest moments.
What is one of the greatest challenges faced throughout your teaching career, and how did you work to overcome it?
Two years ago, it was difficult during the shutdown. We checked out for spring break and never came back, and that was a challenge, especially for subjects like science, like to do a lab. It was hard to deliver the content over the computer. The students just weren’t engaged, I would lose them. They needed that one-on-one connection, especially my struggling learners. It was then that I got all the lab materials together, put them in a paper bag, drove around the county, and dropped off supplies so we could do the lab together. It was nice to drop off, wave, and see them. All of a sudden after that, my students started showing up for the Zoom and I didn’t have to call parents about absences.
Later when we came back in a blended model, I was teaching students that were joining us from Zoom, and also teaching students that were in the classroom right in front of me. That was in a high support classroom, so my students were at least two grade levels below, and that was definitely a challenge to be able to present the material virtually and make sure everyone was engaged in-person. Quizizz was great because it was something I could do with students in the classroom, but also the ones at home could participate, so it pulled everyone together.
With my students that have accommodations, sometimes I’ll notice they’re exhausted and their motivation wanes a little bit, but those are some of my first students jumping out of their seat saying, ‘It’s a Quizizz!’ and thinking ‘It’s not another assessment that I have to do, that I might not score as well on.’ Instead, they think, ‘I’m learning, but it feels kind of like a game, and I’m going to get on the leaderboard.’ So for those students, there’s definitely an excitement factor.
What are a few words you think your students would use to describe you?
When they walk into my classroom, they really believe that I am excited about multiplying with decimals, so they would say that I’m excited about the content, that I love teaching, and that I’m caring. Whatever they’re excited about, I try to figure it out and bring it into the classroom, so they would definitely say that I’m silly, and that I’m a big kid.
You inspired so many teachers, so likewise, who are some educators and edu-creators who inspire you?
I’m not very active on my Twitter account, but these are a couple tried and true materials I’ve turned to over the years:
- The book Teaching With Love and Logic really helped me early on in my career.
- The Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) is an event I enjoy attending for resources and ideas.
As the school year gets a little closer to the finish line, Quizizz sees how hard teachers are still working, and we are here to support you every step of the way. Thank you for allowing our platform to be part of your students’ educational experience. We’re excited to continue providing tools to help you motivate students towards mastery so they may be successful in school and in society.
If you know an awesome teacher that uses Quizizz with their students, DM our Twitter with their contact information, and they could be selected as our next Featured Educator!