Nicole Bennett knows a little something about looking beyond your traditional classroom education.
Nicole Bennett ’10, M.A. ’11, knows a little something about looking beyond your traditional classroom education.
A native of Valley Stream, Bennett graduated from Adelphi in 2011 with a Master’s in Education. While she was a student, Bennett found expansive discovery and her second family in the Levermore Global Scholars (LGS); she joined in the first year of its existence.
“Since LGS is a globally focused program, it broadened my horizons,” said Bennett. “I took classes where we looked at different world perspectives and we went on excursions to the city. It was nice when I started here because I found a group of people I could become close with. And through the years, we stuck close together.”
It also helped Bennett to determine her own path. At the beginning of her sophomore year, Bennett declared STEP as her major.
“I felt like I was being challenged in a different way,” Bennett says of the program. “It was just a different way of thinking. I really found that the students in the program were very serious about it, and the professors treated us differently than they did in undergrad. It was a more mature environment.”
Taking on challenges in a different way is something Bennett ended up taking with her into her career.
Having attended Catholic school herself, Bennett was drawn to working in that environment. After two years of teaching in other schools, Bennett began working at St. Luke’s School in Whitestone as a 4th and 5th grade teacher.
“I started there as a maternity leave replacement, and I just wound up falling in love with the school,” said Bennett. “They wanted me to stay and teach math, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Always looking to get her students to be active participants in her lessons, Bennett has used technology as a teaching tool from the start.
“I never liked being stuck to the whiteboard. If you see a SmartBoard, you have to run up to the screen and touch the next button or run to the laptop,” Bennett explained. “So I was experimenting with different ways of controlling it from around the classroom.”
She started off by using apps on her iPad to control her whiteboard, saving and uploading different activities for her students. Bennett even led workshops for other teachers who wanted to utilize technology in the classroom the same way she had. Still, Bennett wanted to make that technology even more accessible for her students. So, after getting the idea from a co-worker who ran technology classes in a junior high school, Bennett suggested to her principal at the end of the school year that they raise money to purchase Chromebooks for her classes.
“She pretty much said ‘go ahead’,” Bennett recalls. “‘If you can fundraise and get these Chromebooks, feel free’.”
Determined, Bennett set up a GoFundMe page and wrote an article promoting it. Her principal followed up by posting it in the school’s bulletin. By October, the school had gotten the class a set of Chromebooks.
“Right now we have 27 Chromebooks,” Bennett said. “Our class sizes are no more than 24 or 25, so we actually raised more than we needed.”
Bennett adapted her entire lesson plan to using the Chromebooks, determining which apps she wanted her students to use and what programs she wanted to teach them. After deciding to start by teaching the kids how to use Google Docs, everything took off from there.
“The kids started blowing through the projects faster than I thought they could,” Bennett recalled. “They used to do around six projects a year, but I had to come up with a seventh and an eighth because they were learning so quickly.”
Having now used the Chromebooks for almost three full years, Bennett feels much more comfortable with her technology-driven curriculum and anticipates that upcoming years will only continue to get easier.
“I wanted the program to be practical,” said Bennett. “I didn’t want the kids to just come in and play a game. I wanted them to leave with skills they can use in junior high into college. By the time these kids hit college, there’s going to be something else they’ll have to learn.”
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