Victoria McDonough: Teacher Spotlight

We are pleased to feature Constellation Schools Technology Integration Coach Victoria McDonough as our May Teacher Spotlight!

Victoria McDonough is a Cleveland State University alumna who graduated in 2016. During her time at the University, she double-majored in History and Social Studies, and minored in Secondary Education. Victoria also worked for CSU’s History Department and Social Studies @ CSU as a student researcher, studying topics such as integrating technology in the classroom and using oral histories to further student understanding of the past. Currently, she works as a Technology Integration Coach for Constellation Schools in Lorain, Ohio, where she primarily assists teachers in using technology to its fullest potential. Victoria plans to begin pursuing her Master’s Degree in Instructional Design and Technology this summer.
Twitter ID @techycoachmcd
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My parents were my initial inspiration to become a teacher. My father is a college professor, and my mother works with pre-K students – so I’ve always been exposed to learning and teaching as a career. However, when I got to high school, I had an incredible History teacher that inspired me and encouraged me to pursue History Education. Her lessons were always engaging and intensely fascinating; I always walked away wanting to delve deeper into the story of the past. My teacher recognized a passion for History within me and praised my ability to explain concepts and ideas the others. Other experiences, such as teaching a vacation Bible school to missionary children in Thailand and teaching English to refugees in Italy, further solidified the idea that teaching was what I was always meant to pursue, and was the way in which I was meant to leave an impact on the world around me. Now, my incredible students and fellow teachers inspire me every day to continue teaching and pursuing skills that will aid in my educational practice.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the incredible tech skills that my students possess. I’m constantly amazed by their capabilities and understanding of technology, and I love seeing the work they produce online (sometimes it feels like they should be teaching this technology – not me!). Through technology, I am also able to witness the creativity and uniqueness of each of my students – these tech projects, no matter how small, give me little windows into their personalities and lives, and help me have a more complete understanding of what makes them, them!  
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
The biggest challenge I face as a Technology Integration Coach is that not all of my students have the same level of skill or access to resources. While we do have a 1:1 laptop program at Constellation Schools, not all of my students come from a “tech” background or have the ability to practice what they are learning at home. This can oftentimes make technology tutorials difficult, as I have some students who are ready to do coding and build their own websites, while  others barely understand how to use Google Slides. However, I’m working on a program for next year to try to counteract this issue; I’d like to introduce a “guru” program of sorts in which students can get “certified” in various Google Apps and then share that knowledge with other students in the school. I believe this will not only level the playing field in regards to tech skills, but it will also provide leadership opportunities to students that might not get them otherwise.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
I am a huge fan of project-based learning and of having students create their own content. I think that children learn best when we give them the opportunity and the resources to innovate, create, and problem-solve. That being said, one of my favorite ways to incorporate primary sources into Social Studies lessons is to have students create their own work in response to something they have seen or read. For instance, when I taught the Holocaust to a class of sophomore students, I had them view pictures and read first-hand accounts of survivors, and then write journal entries from the perspective of someone that lived through this period of history. I found that activity to be far more meaningful and impactful for my students and their understanding of the past than simply having them read a textbook or watch a movie. I have also used primary sources, such as the Articles of Confederation, to teach vocabulary – students read the document, circle any words with which they may be unfamiliar, and then work in groups to define those terms. For many kids, this can bring a seemingly archaic document to life, while also providing them with vocabulary and reading skills they can carry with them throughout their academic career.
I think technology can add so much depth to any assignment or project! Students are so skilled and capable of creating breathtaking videos, Google Slides presentations, vector drawings – the list goes on! I love just giving students parameters for an assignment, and then letting them create and innovate. They ALWAYS surprise and amaze me with what they can accomplish in regards to technology (sometimes I think they know more than I do!). While I believe that I am responsible for initially providing training, resources and ideas to my students on how they can effectively implement tech, I also enjoy integrating technology in my lessons by simply letting students explore and design their own incredible work!
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
The most important thing that I learned from my teacher education program at CSU was to be flexible and open-minded. I am generally someone that likes to have my entire day planned out with no surprises; I want to know what to expect each day when I enter a classroom. From watching my mentors from my practicum and student teaching experiences, I realized that this idea is not only completely unrealistic, but it takes a lot of the joy and spontaneity out of teaching as well. So many of my favorite teaching moments have arisen out of a totally unplanned situation, and let’s face it: kids are unpredictable! My mentors all throughout my teacher education program modeled really positive and flexible attitudes to the ever-changing schedule of their classrooms. They didn’t let distractions, student behavior or surprises derail their lessons, but instead chose to incorporate those moments into their lessons and activities. I think this attitude and approach creates an incredibly comfortable and positive classroom environment, while also imparting some essential character qualities on your students.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
My best advice for a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher is to pick an aspect of Social Studies (World or American History, Government, Economics, Psychology, etc.) and learn everything you can about that topic. Read, attend seminars, watch movies, talk with experts – do everything you can to develop your knowledge and passion for that discipline. That passion will shine through to your students and inspire them! One of my favorite professors had an intense zeal for American History, specifically the Civil War. His excitement for the topic, and the unique way in which he delivered content, always came through his lectures, and made me excited to learn more about this history as well. That passion and inspiration is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and also reminds me to teach and influence students with that same level of emotion!
Thank you Tori!