We are proud to introduce our fifth Sunday Spotlight, featuring Katie Gatrell who teaches elementary school math in Middlefield, Ohio. From her passion for making learning both fun AND challenging to her unique challenge of using edtech with students who don’t use electricity at home, we loved getting to know her. We hope you enjoy getting to know Katie and the fun tips and tricks she had to share!
12 years teaching
“I knew that I needed to be a teacher to make learning so much fun for kids. Any subject, no matter how hard, can be fun and challenging with the right teacher!”
Get to know Katie Gatrell
What do you love about teaching?
During high school, I loved physics. I thought I loved it so much that it became my major as I began college. After taking several physics classes in college, I realized that I didn’t really love physics. I thought I’d loved physics because I’d had an amazing teacher who had made learning fun. It was at that point that I knew that I needed to be a teacher to make learning so much fun for kids. Any subject, no matter how hard, can be fun and challenging with the right teacher! This is especially important to me as I teach math to all the 4th graders in the district.
Describe your Edulastic “aha” moment.
I recently moved back to 4th grade after teaching 1st grade for 4 years. When I’d left 4th grade, we were still taking paper-pencil tests using the Ohio standards. By the time I returned, we has switched to PARCC and then AIR. I needed to find some way to prepare my students, and myself, for an online testing platform.
I found Edulastic during one of my web searches for test prep practice for my 4th graders. I’d heard that the Common Core tests taken online were really difficult. It took me quite a while to get the hang of writing tech-enhanced questions but I love the data reports that Edulastic provides for student mastery of each standard. With the instant data, I can spend more time designing lessons rather than spending hours trying to tally how many students missed a question.
What are your teaching/learning goals this school year?
I think any teacher’s goal can be associated with test scores. My goal this year is to continue to help kids love math just like I was taught to love physics all those years ago.
Did you face any challenges that you had to overcome last year?
“One of the biggest challenges in our district comes from the fact that we’re centered in the 4th largest Amish settlement in the world. The Amish do not use electricity or technology in their homes. This can be especially difficult when assigning computer work because it can never be finished at home. Typically the Amish students in our district are permitted to use technology during the school day but their familiarity with technology is not as strong as their “”yankee”” peers which requires more patience and work-time during class.
Tips for new Edulastic users:
Don’t try to use all the types of questions every time you make an assessment. I became familiar with the basics and then tried to learn one new tech-enhanced question at a time (along with my students) so none of us became overwhelmed.
Favorite Edulastic question type?
Favorite snack while using Edulastic?
Coffee or tea?
Favorite time of school year or year in general?
I love late winter, right before spring. The kiddos are strong in their routines and we haven’t gotten spring fever yet.
Best tactic to get the class quiet?
Never let them talk! Ha! Just kidding, half the time I just turn off the lights or ask for their attention.
Must-have classroom decor:
I use twin flat sheets as the background for my bulletin boards. They never wrinkle or fade!
Funniest student moment?
I was trying to show first graders how to cut efficiently. I explained that I’d been shown this strategy when I was in elementary school. One student piped up and replied “Oh! You went to school back in the olden days?!” I just laughed and agreed with him.
Kindest compliment you have received from a student?
A student gave me a quarter-sized smooth rock that she’d written on. One side said Mrs. Gatrell, the other side said Math Rocks!! I still carry that rock around in my pocket for good luck.
Greatest teaching-related accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is simply hearing kids say “I love math! Its my favorite subject!” It never gets old.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I recently got my motorcycle license and I’ve been spending the summer riding locally. My dream is to ride Sturgis, South Dakota someday. I also love painting. I’ve been taking private art lessons for nearly 18 years.