Our ongoing Meet Our Teachers series interviews the teachers responsible for making our classes engaging, challenging, and lots of fun for high-ability learners. Up today: Jenna Spiering!
Please tell us a little about your personal background as well as your background here at the Center.
I am originally from Des Moines, but I came to the University of Iowa in 2004 and majored in English Lit and Viola Performance. I had planned on being a musician and viola teacher, but I changed my mind somewhere along the way. I then decided to go back to school to become a school librarian and I graduated from the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science in 2008. Since then, I have been working as a teacher librarian at Northwest Junior High in Coralville. Last year, I started working on my PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture, because at some point I really want to teach librarians at the university level and do research in my field.
Since I started working at the B-BC, I have taught in the Challenge Saturdays Program, JSI, NSI and WINGS. I teach programs that have to do with computer programming, game creation and mobile app development. I love to do this, because we don’t get to spend enough time using these skills during the normal school day and I think they are so important. I feel really passionate that computer programming is a language of power in our society and that all students need an opportunity to explore these areas. I, personally, have learned so much from teaching the classes and from the students I have had in them.
What is your favorite part of teaching?
I love being a librarian because I get to do so many different things. I LOVE to read and talk about books, but it is not all I do. A really big part of my job is teaching students to use technology in a variety of different ways. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to find and use information ethically and how to access alternative perspectives. We also use technology to create and show what we learn. Another reason I love my job is that I get to spend time supporting teachers as well, and thinking about how we can use technology in schools for more authentic learning. I am interested in ways we use technology to get students to collaborate and join conversations that are happening outside of their classroom walls.
What is the most important lesson you have learned about high-ability students?
The most important thing I have learned about high-ability students is that ability can manifest itself in so many different ways. There is not one way to teach all high ability students and I have learned to be adaptable with what I plan in our classes. I always keep in mind that students will work at vastly different speeds and may do their best work in groups or working individually.
Another thing I think about with high ability students is empowering them to teach others. In the kinds of classes I teach, I often have students that pick up the material very quickly and benefit from the opportunity to share what they have learned and troubleshoot issues their classmates may be having.