Deanna Mikin: Teacher Spotlight

We are pleased to present CSU Alum Deanna Mikin of North Royalton Middle School for our April Teacher Spotlight!

Deanna Mikin teaches 6th grade Social Studies at North Royalton Middle School in North Royalton, Ohio. She completed her BS in Middle Childhood Education with a concentration in Social Studies at Cleveland State University in 1996 and her MAEd in Instructional Technology at Baldwin Wallace in 2002. Over the course of her 12 year teaching career, Mikin has taught 5th and 6th grade Math, 5th and 6th grade Language Arts and 6th grade Social Studies. Mikin currently serves as Social Studies department leader. During department meetings she and her colleagues review data, share best practices, and curriculum-map content to design the appropriate scope and sequence for Social Studies content. In addition, she is a member of the District Technology committee and recently trained with the Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. (SME), as part of the CAP process offered by CSU. SME was an effort for teachers to collaborate and create common high quality pre and post-test Social Studies assessments for grades 5-8. SME teachers work to improve overall test development skills, align the content of the 2010 Social Studies Standards and the test items that measure student performance on those Standards and create items that are crafted in the style of the ELA/Math Common Core Tests (Ohio PARCC) that will be administered beginning in 2014/2015. Mikin has presented at several Middle Childhood Level Conferences and in 2013 she became a Master Teacher.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
I was inspired to become a teacher on multiple levels. Initially my inspiration to become a teacher came ironically from a 6th grade language arts teacher that challenged, inspired and influenced me. Secondly, my mom is an educator and we traveled to vacation destinations throughout my childhood with a bit of a “lesson” from her along the way. Lastly, I wanted to make difference and encourage children to think critically, create meaningful learning experiences and challenge them. As a former language arts teacher, I believe that social studies should involve students in writing, reading, observing, making hypotheses, and creating experiential exercises to promote an optimal learning.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is working with students and watching them succeed. To see the “light bulb” go off or an “ah-ha” moment and then a big grin of confidence on the face of a child…knowing we are advocates for the students to help them succeed and believe in their abilities. I love the fact that each day is different and an opportunity to learn.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
Time. There never is enough time. I am a “student” as well- constantly seeking new strategies to teach and engage learners. Developing SMART board lessons, stations, simulations, presentations, content creation, grading, activities, quizlet, MOODLE site (a blended learning opportunity for children outside of the classroom) … department meetings, school committees, team meetings, conferences, and violà the day has disappeared! As an extremely proud mom of two boys under 6 …life is busy!! I know that is true for so many!
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
One of my favorite ways to incorporate primary sources is through video vignettes, audio, etc. I love to incorporate technology into the classroom. The children create Google Drive presentations comparing the four empires of Mesopotamia; we travel along the Nile River taking an in classroom tour stopping at various sites and stations learning about Egypt, etc. We use Google Maps/Earth occasionally and use QR codes to go on scavenger hunts to learn about the Indus River civilization and experiential simulations to engage learners. The SMART board is a daily component in the classroom; we Skype during an intervention class with students, we create Voki avatars to share content on a topic. Students create a response to a question via an avatar or share information regarding content on a topic. We also use Twitter exit slips I created to review material presented in class that day. I create quizlet review games that are housed on my MOODLE site and students can access learning on the go—via Ipad, Kindle or tablet. There are video clips on MOODLE to extend and enrich learning beyond the classroom, (blended learning) we use laptops, KINDLES and Google docs. I also use for exit slip type questions, short assessments, etc.
Try to reach the kids at their level and they respond well to technology!
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
Education is constantly changing. I learned to be open and try new things, to experiment and constantly seek new ideas. I know this sounds cliché, but I vow to be a “student” forever and continuously seek fresh ideas and techniques to encourage and engage learning.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
I am a firm believer that you must be passionate and LOVE what you do. The kids can sense if you are excited about teaching the content …and it is not only about the content, but about the whole child.