We are thrilled to introduce Edulastic Innovator Spotlight member Samantha Shaffner! Samantha is an ELA teacher in Columbus, OH. She also has written great guest blog posts for Edulastic. Thanks for everything, Samantha!
Get to know Samantha Shaffner
Please sum up your teaching philosophy in a few sentences:
I believe students need to be listened to, considered, respected, and celebrated. All students are different, so using a variety of instructional methods that meet their needs is critical for students to be successful in mastering learning targets. Additionally, forming good relationships with your students and establishing mutual trust allows for students to gain the confidence they need to ask us as teachers for what they need.
All students need different things. Our job is to figure out who they are, and help them grow into responsible, competitive, 21st-century citizens. Teachers must use data of all types to establish an action plan for each child that helps them grow and thrive into the student they are meant to be.
What inspired you to work in education?
Honestly, I have always been academic, but did not always love school. I had some teachers that said things to me when I was young that made me want to give up. I also had other teachers (shout-out to Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Laube, and Mrs. Mason from Findlay City Schools) that gave me a reason to wake up in the morning when life got tough during my teenage years. Being a writer has always been a job of mine, even as a child it was something I was good at and always took seriously. When I started to consider careers, I first wanted to write novels. I am a published author, but not of fiction–like I envisioned. I write and blog about my passion for education and resources for teachers to use to get the most out of the time with their students.
Why did I choose to teach ELA? I realized that:
- I have a natural ability with words. I wanted to share this talent with others in a way that was nurturing and not somewhat traumatizing like I experienced in school. I wanted to be a supportive writing coach, and knew that I could excel at that.
- Those 3 teachers I named above changed my life. I knew that I had the love in my heart and passion/skills to make a difference, too.
- My mother and late father always encouraged me to work with people because I have a big heart and an understanding demeanor. When I finished college with a degree in English/Creative Writing from Ohio University, they encouraged me to go back to school to get a BA in Education and follow my path as a teacher. So, that’s what I did.
How did you learn about Edulastic? What is your Edulastic story?
I began using Edulastic during the 2017-2018 SY at my current school. Millennium Community School, a K-8 charter in Columbus, OH, uses Edulastic as its main digital assessment tool. At the time, I had recently made the decision to switch from high school ELA and Tech Integration, to middle school ELA. Most of my resources were for older students, and I didn’t have much of a perspective as to what these assessments looked like for middle schoolers, despite my area of expertise technically (licensure) being with students in grades 7-12. Years and years of creating curriculum for AP, Credit Recovery, and primarily 11th and 12th grade English, I wasn’t left with much to begin with.
At first, I was intimidated by all of the functions—the bells and whistles. It honestly seemed too good to be true for a teacher in my position– someone who needed a good resource bank to draw new types of resources from.
Edulastic did not disappoint. In fact, I found it to be easy to use after my boss, Director Russell, tasked us with making our own entrance and exit tickets daily, and presenting them at team morning meetings. As a newbie to the staff, the pressure was on to impress, and also catch up with middle school assessment protocols. Day by day my skills grew, along with my love for the app itself. My students began to feel comfortable with typing, using Tech Enhanced Items, and went into testing season with the confidence I hoped they would have. It did take 2 school years to see the results (1.5 as I began mid season), but the dividends have arrived. We grew 175 percent through practicing our skills with Edulastic! I also enjoy blogging and writing for Edulastic and Snapwiz, and love the work our Innovator team has been doing. All in all, Edulastic is more than just an app. To me, it is the future of digital assessment prep in all K-12 classrooms because it achieves amazing results that we as teachers and students can be proud of.
What do you love about Edulastic? How do you use it in your classroom?
Edulastic is an amazing interactive and collaborative tool because of the high quality and rigorous standards based content / questions / assessments contained in its libraries and banks.
What tips do you have for teachers who are new to Edulastic?
- For a new user, it is best to start with pre-made content, and then explore into ways you can tweak, modify, and even create brand new assessments using whatever resources you want to align with the learning objectives being assessed.
- Edulastic can be overwhelming with its one-of-a-kind versatility and depth of data reports, so when you begin authoring your own questions, check out the blog, and try one question aligned with a learning standard at a time. This also works very well for entrance and exit tickets and serves as a means to drive daily instruction with a quick formative check!
- Before you begin the assessment design process, determine what standards your students are being tested on or practice with.
- Select question types to find content aligned with your standards and student needs. If you are preparing for state tests, make sure you give your students plenty of time throughout the year to practice the Tech Enhanced Items because they mimic the process on the state assessments themselves down to a T!
- Familiarize yourself with Edulastic’s variety of assessment libraries and question banks. You can search for a specific standard or set of standards, or search through curriculum sets like Engage NY, etc. You will be happy to see Edulastic accommodates a HUGE amount of standard sets, nationally endorsed curriculum, and also has vetted libraries with approved accredited assessments ONLY, which is nice, too!
- Use Edulastic as a framework for your district benchmark tests! Create your assessments and save them under the “District Library” setting when publishing. You can share and select questions from your school or district library: “Tagging” questions for teacher collaboration.
- Get exactly what you need, and quickly by conducting a focused search using your “filters” in Edulastic’s question bank.
Share an #EduVictory from the past year. In other words, do you have a particular success story that happened in your classroom or school?
My 7th grade students grew from 13 to 31 students testing proficient on the Ohio ELA AIR test! Our school grew exponentially, as we started with -6 growth points on our state report card.
I am excited to report that our 3rd-8th grade classes at Millennium Community School changed that -6 to a +55! I am especially proud of my 6th and 7th grade ELA students for earning 20/55 total growth points for both Reading and Math! They were the MVPs in this year’s Ohio AIR test game! I couldn’t be more proud!
What subjects do you use Edulastic for?
Favorite Edulastic Question Type