December 11, 2013
Educator of the Month: Tanya Phillips
Tanya Phillips is a Biology Teacher at a high school in Coral Gables, Florida. She teaches pre IB, honors, and inclusion classes. She has been with the district for eight years and held several roles including science department chair, instructional coach, and middle school science teacher.
Ms. Phillips has been using Gizmos for as long as she’s been teaching. It all started with an ExploreLearning professional development workshop she attended years ago. It was there that she met Miami-Dade’s Gizmo Project Manager Mario Junco. After hearing what Mario had to say about the program, she decided to start using Gizmos in her classroom right away. She explains, “Watching Mario model the sample lessons, I just knew that I could have done the same.” About two years later, she was recognized for being one of the top Gizmo users in the district!
According to Ms. Phillips, one of the more challenging science concepts for students to understand is periodic trends. “Even though they see the atomic number increase on the periodic table, they still struggle with the concept of the atomic number determining what type of atom we are talking about. The Element Builder Gizmo is a great way to provide a visual and hands-on approach to such an abstract concept. Kids get to see the atom of the particular element come together and then change to another atom when subatomic particles are added or removed. They usually understand the concept really well after using the Gizmo.”
Students learn with Gizmos in numerous ways in Ms. Phillips’ classroom. She usually uses them to engage students when introducing a new concept. During whole class instruction, she asks students to come to the interactive whiteboard to manipulate the Gizmo, while other students assist in providing responses. Ms. Phillips also likes how Gizmos so naturally support varying student learning needs. She explains, “I use Gizmos to differentiate instruction by having the students interact with different activities within the Student Exploration sheets based on their levels or needs. Sometimes I use the exploration as enrichment or remediation for the students that need it.” At the end of the lessons, Ms. Phillips uses the built-in assessment to gauge student understanding and participation in the activities.