Thinkery EdExchange: Interview with Daniela Willett

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Written by Mallory Morris, Education Media Intern.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! During this special week, we’re thrilled to highlight one of the many amazing local educators we’ve met through our EdExchange program, Daniela Willett.

Tell us about yourself! Tell us about your background, education and interests.

I have been a third-grade teacher for 11 years. It is my favorite grade to teach! I love to be able to have discussions with scholars and engage them in new and exciting topics or solve problems in different and creative ways. I grew in in Venezuela, went to college in New Orleans and came to Austin 12 years ago.

What inspired you to become an educator?

I love learning! Being an educator makes me learn different strategies, ways to reach students and explain concepts in different ways, but also to learn from scholars. They are amazing and creative! As an educator, I get to come to work and learn from them.

How did you hear about Thinkery’s EdExchange program? Why did you want to be part of this program?

I first heard about the EdExchange program during the summer of 2016. I always try to take different professional development courses when I have more time during the summer. I am also a Thinkery Member for my own family, so as soon as I heard about a summer course there, I signed up right away. I love being able to hear different ideas and use materials and technology in new and exciting ways.

How has your EdExchange experience shaped the work you do in your classroom?

The EdExchange program (Summer 2016 course, Spring 2017 and Fall 2018) has shaped me as an educator and is still shaping me! I have found a reborn passion for projects and let go of many fears that come with traditional teaching. I think my scholars have also now understood how learning is an on-going process, that learning is never just “done”. We have found learning to be a process, sometimes successful, sometimes not so much- and that is OK.

What changes have you noticed in your students since you began the EdExchange program in your classroom?

Scholars in my classroom have been engaged and passionate about learning. We don’t always have the time or flexibility in our schedule to work on projects or different activities, but we know that it is always a part of our day and how we think about learning. Their mindset (and mine!) has shifted to being a more creative and flexible, not looking for an end product as a sign of mastery of a subject.

What has your experience with Thinkery’s educators been like?

The Thinkery educational staff has been amazing! Their passion for learning is contagious, both to students and teachers alike. They are prepared, professional and knowledgeable, always willing to step in and teach or facilitate where we need them to.

Is there anything you hope to implement in the future?

I hope there are more EdExchanges for different campuses in all of Austin, and that we continue to build connections and partnerships to share lesson plans and ideas as we continue to grow as a community.

Describe one of your favorite moments in the classroom during your EdExchange experience.

There have been some great collaborative groups in our EdExchange groups. Students who may have struggled because of being shy or not comfortable with particular subjects, are now leading discussions, creating and designing their own projects and justifying their learning. It was been amazing to see them grow more responsible and flexible at the same time!

What advice do you have for educators interested in Thinkery’s EdExchange program?

Go for it! It is a great way to get access to technology and resources that you might not have available (or even knew it existed). Beyond that, it shapes your mindset as an educator – and really brings to life the idea of life-long learning – for student and teachers.

Interested in Thinkery’s EdExchange program? Mark your calendars—applications for the 2018-19 school year open May 17!

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