Get to know Karen Swift

Introducing Edulastic Innovator Spotlight member Karen Swift! Karen is a high school math teacher from Saratoga Springs, NY. An educator of 25 years, Karen began using Edulastic during the pandemic and is looking forward to learning more. Welcome to the Innovator Team, Karen!

Why did you become a teacher?

I think a lot of teachers become teachers because they had positive experiences in school. That’s how it was for me. I liked school and was good at it, so I decided to become a teacher. It wasn’t until I was well into my career that I truly understood that the true challenge of being a teacher is being able to bring some joy and success to those students for whom school is not always easy. That’s why I’ve remained a teacher for so long.

What do you love about teaching?

The best thing about teaching is witnessing a young person’s recognition that they’ve accomplished something difficult. When that happens, the student really begins to understand what it means to learn and that they are capable of things beyond their expectations.

Describe your Edulastic “aha” moment.

I struggled with finding a way to assess my students remotely that allowed me to ask the types of questions I wanted to ask, provide a means for them to submit their answers, and that was easy for me to provide feedback – not to mention the more complex mathematics notation that I needed for Calculus. After a couple of months of working with different platforms that simply did not meet my needs, I turned to Edulastic. At first, it felt overwhelming, but it proved to be very easy to use and works within my school’s LMS. I gave my students a very short quiz as a practice and it was the first time that I was able to do so with absolutely no issues. All the students could access it, answer the questions, and I was able to see everything without going through a dozen steps. I was sold. I hadn’t even gotten to things like standards reports or redirects. A simple quiz that went smoothly during a year that didn’t was all it took for me to be hooked!

What are your teaching goals this year?

I am always working toward providing more opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning experiences. After reading Peter Liljedahl’s book, Building Thinking Classrooms, I am eager to put some of his research into practice and being more of a facilitator of my students’ learning. My school is moving toward standards based grading and my second goal of the year is to begin to implement some SBG practices using Edulastic.

What are some tips for teachers who are new to Edulastic?

Start slow! Take one of your paper-based assessments and turn it into an Edulastic assessment. Try some of the different features but, when things don’t work they way you expect it to, be ready to make it up to the kids!

What is your greatest accomplishment in the classroom this past year?

Considering the craziness of the past year, I think my biggest accomplishment was incorporating technology that I can use even when students are 100% back in school. I’d always shied away from using technology because there just never seemed the time to experiment. This year made it more of a necessity and I took the time to experiment and learn some things, including Edulastic, that I know I can use in the future.

Fun Facts

Favorite gift from a student?

When I first started teaching, I had a red stapler (this was before the movie “Office Space”) and I wanted to see if I could keep that stapler for my whole career. A silly goal, but a fun one that my students knew about. It broke after about 15 years. At the end of that school year, a student bought me a new red stapler.

Favorite time of the school year?

I’m probably the weird one who likes the long stretch between February and April breaks. It’s the only time we are really in a groove without a lot of interruptions.

Favorite motivational quote?

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” ~ Vince Lombardi

Funniest student moment?

here are two versions of AP Calculus – AB and BC. I teach the BC class at my school. Each year, we play an AB vs BC kickball game. A couple of years ago, my students, who generally pride themselves on being “nerdy,” spent three class blocks (post-AP exam) strategizing, which was pretty entertaining itself. During the game, they huddled up and one student advised, “Look, if you find yourself thinking about math, try to remember that we have a game to win.” They won.

Sum up your teaching philosophy in a few sentences!

We learn when we struggle. This is true not only in school, but in life. It is my responsibility to give students the opportunity to struggle in a productive way, helping them to build the confidence that they can be truly successful to overcome not just a math problem, but the problems they will experience throughout their lives.

Favorite book?

1984 by George Orwell

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