Lisa Anderson #ASpotlight Interview

Our fifth addition to our #ASpotlight Interview Series is Lisa Anderson, a fifth grade teacher at Allen-Stevenson. Learn about Lisa’s extensive experience creating a STEAM curriculum and why she enjoys coaching Odyssey of the Mind.
What do you like in particular about teaching Fifth Grade?
I love the work that I do because I feel privileged to be part of someone else’s learning story. It is inspiring to watch my students grow socially and emotionally throughout the year.
 
You oversee the Odyssey of the Mind after-school class for fifth and sixth graders. Why did you decide to bring this program to Allen-Stevenson?
Odyssey of the Mind develops so many skills, self-reliance, problem-solving, innovation, and logical thinking, which are elements of a good STEAM program. In the Fifth Grade, we spend a lot of time talking about the Engineering Design Process (EDP). Odyssey of the Mind uses the EDP process over and over as the boys turn their ideas into original products. I love the creativity of the program! Engineering original products can be challenging at times; the process of engineering is what allows the boys to adapt a growth mindset, which helps them to deal with both setbacks and successes. It’s wonderful to be part of the creative process with them!
 
You’re also very interested and involved in the STEAM program at Allen-Stevenson. Can you describe how you developed this interest?
When I was in a master’s program, I had a professor who taught me about inquiry learning. She was also my thesis advisor and helped me develop a love for “hands-on/minds-on” teaching and learning. Her graduate courses were designed to teach science through inquiry, and She used the “hands on/ minds on” method to teach her graduate science classes. I just loved the whole idea of having students, whether they are in history, reading, science or math, bring authentic learning into the classroom. This is what it’s all about to me. Students come to me to ask, “Why does this matter?” STEAM fills in all the blanks.
 
You have quite a background in STEM/STEAM. Can you elaborate?
I taught science in a public school system in Virginia prior to coming to Allen-Stevenson. Another teacher and I took a Virginia Tech Summer Program and started a STEM lab in our school. We went on to integrate a STEM curriculum into Grades K-5. This STEM curriculum was then shared with other schools in the district. I feel fortunate to be able to pursue this passion at Allen-Stevenson where I get to create original curriculum and integrate STEAM into our lessons.
 
Can you describe one of your favorite topics to teach during the year?
In addition to STEAM V, I really like the unit we are about to begin…the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, over the summer a group of fellow faculty members and I took a road trip south to see an ex-colleague and as part of this adventure, we went to the Civil Rights Museum and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. It was very powerful for all of us…hearing the stories and accounts of what happened during this time period. I plan to bring a lot of that curriculum to my students. There were first-hand accounts from James Zwerg, as a young activist, and the story behind the role of John Lewis and the personal account of his activism. There was a lot of audio and video available of Martin Luther King, Jr., which will be useful when we begin our discussions on the Civil Rights Movement.
 
What does many ways to be a boy mean to you?
It means all boys are welcome as individuals. Here at A-S we talk about the diverse types of role models we have in our society. At Allen-Stevenson we give our boys the chance to become emotionally literate and to develop an appreciation for all members of our community.
 
Describe our boys and school in 3 words:
Creative, exuberant, curious.
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Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.