Qwest Case Study 2009
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Education Technology

Qwest Foundation Teachers & Technology Grant Program Teacher Profile

Veronique Paquette, Kenroy Elementary, Wenatchee, Washington

Kenroy ElementaryShe is in constant motion — leaning down, standing up, reaching, pointing, a light hand to a worried shoulder here, a quick turn for censure and new task there — she zig-zags her way along an invisible footpath encircling 24 seven year-olds ribboned along two rows of desks.

Classroom walls are vigorous evidence of the world beyond — photographs, drawings, maps and diagrams — outerspace and earthbound amazements.

The subject this afternoon is mathematics. An interactive whiteboard cues up the curriculum but she expands and deepens its academics with hands-on activity at the board, while at desk level, her grade two students sculpt the answer to a math equation, their small hands working quickly with colorful blocks in a flurry of attempts to group and re-group equations.

If you’re seven, it’s hard to grasp the concept that one equation can be demonstrated many different ways. She encourages them to help each other as kids either figure it out or give up in frustration. It’s a scene of high energy and hard work, at once frantic and restrained, thoughtful and unruly, noisy and struck with solemn anxiety, impatient, and wiggling and willing to wait their turn as she moves along the invisible footpath.

Veronique Paquette is a long-time educator − 25 years of teaching experience – with a breathtaking list of accomplishments. Two themes define her career – an absolute devotion to her craft as a teacher and a profound, lifelong love of scientific inquiry. She graduated from Central Washington University in 1987 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in special education. In 1991, she earned her master’s degree as a reading specialist. Washington State Teacher of the Year in 2003, and recently certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Veronique taught kindergarten for nine years and has taught second grade for the past 16 years at Kenroy Elementary.

Veronique brings more than teaching experience to her students; she brings the force of her life experience as a traveler, science devotee, a developer of curricula and NASA educator. She is an avid believer in the power of real-world science and history and art to engage young minds and has brought astronauts and working professionals to meet and interact directly with her young charges.

In 2007, Veronique Paquette was awarded a Qwest Foundation Teachers & Technology grant. She designed a learning project that crossed core subject areas – science, writing, U.S. history, reading – and integrated a variety of digital technologies. Over the course of several months, she transformed her eager, excitable second-graders into first class biographers and videographers. Each child played the part of an American astronaut, turning his or her life story into a mini-movie and written report.

The Qwest Foundation learning project proved to be a lightning rod that fused Veronique’s passion for science and astronomy with her ability to inspire young learners. Lessons learned for sure, but the overall success of the project was tremendous if you gauge student motivation and understanding, active family interest and knowledge-shared among her peers. She gave us a modest recipe for success. “My years in the classroom have taught me over and over again that history – any subject − as a textbook description of events or conditions misses the very thing that connects us to understanding – the context of human experience. You have to make it real for your kids.”

Qwest Foundation funding gave Veronique what she needed most – the money to move beyond a laptop and document camera and equip her classroom with 21st century technologies. Her enthusiasm for the project was boundless. “Once the new hardware was in place and we knew how to work with it, my students and I were able to jump on board at lightning speed.”

Veronique is a lifelong learner. She is the enthusiastic participant of countless classes that that relate to pedagogy, science and technology − and a trainer herself. At ESD 171, she works with colleagues to improve their instructional approaches to science curriculum, specifically astronomy. And, she allows her deep interest in science to shape and guide her career. She is a LASER trainer (Washington State Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform), a program that helps school district staff implement research-based instructional materials for science curriculum.

A transformative training experience changed her teaching style. Chosen as a Teacher Leadership Project (TLP) candidate in 2003, Veronique says that this experience marked a critical turning point in the way she thought about teaching and learning. She engaged its proven concepts for technology integration into standards-based curricula. Popular today, this ongoing and evolving program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and modeled on the curriculum framework of Understanding by Design. Coming through the Gates grant program turned many teachers toward project-based learning and keeps them there. As Veronique says, “It works and gives you the means to build real-life relevancy into your learning projects. This is training that transforms.” Seven teachers in her district became Microsoft TLP teachers and three became active with OSPI’s Enhanced Peer Coaching Program.

She learned how to create a project-based learning experience structured around a system called GRASPS – Goal, Role, Audience, Setting, Purpose and Standard for Success. At its core, GRASPS is a step-by-step process through which a teacher creates a classroom activities that connect kids to real-world subject matter. “One of the scenarios I created was called the Bat Report. Big hit. Each student pretends he or she is mammologist who has just discovered a new and rare type of bat. Their job is to write a report detailing this new creature and then share the discovery with colleagues.”

She keeps in touch with her TLP partners across the district. Several, like Veronique, were awarded grant funds for the peer coaching program, so they are going through the training together. Her other TLP colleagues are close friends; they get together regularly and share ideas about teaching and learning.

The greatest piece of learning she internalized with the TLP experience actually affirmed her personal philosophy of teaching and learning — that the role of technology in the classroom lies in its power to strengthen curriculum, not replace it; and that there can be no replacement for good teaching.

The TLP experience transformed this fine educator into a technology integrator and member of a dynamic learning community. Within the context of her learner-centered instructional approach, Veronique could see clearly the possibilities inherent in technology-rich classroom activities. When the Qwest Foundation grant program opened up, she seized the opportunity to build on what she had learned through TLP training, as well as direct application of its practices in her classroom.

In 2000 — Veronique began a rich and rewarding relationship with NASA. She was a new graduate of the NEWMAST program (NASA Educational Workshops for Mathematics and Science Teachers), an intensive two-week training session that brought teachers into the NASA research center for an immersion in aerospace science. Shoulder-to-shoulder with aerospace engineers, teachers designed a science experiment able to travel on the space shuttle. Veronique formalized her relationship with NASA as a trainer in 2004 and leads professional development classes regularly at the International Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

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