Kiersten Luther, ESOL Teacher, Cale Elementary
Kiersten Luther, German Teacher, Albemarle High School
What has your classroom experience taught you that studying education could not have prepared you for? 
Studying education warned me, but my classroom experience confirmed that lessons don’t always go as planned, and that’s okay.  The important thing is to be able to be flexible and willing to go with the flow. At the beginning of the year, I wanted every class to run seamlessly; as a result, I clung to my lesson plan. I think clinging to “the plan” gives first year teachers the confidence and structure that they need while they learn when and in which ways they can be flexible.
Through classroom experience, though, I learned to be more flexible. I learned the importance of unanticipated but related questions, and began flexibly embracing these teachable moments rather than sweeping them aside for the sake of time. Studying education gave me the tools I needed, but experience is giving me the confidence to use them as best I can.
What teaching adjustments do you plan to make moving forward?
Moving forward, I’m looking to incorporate much more technology into my instruction. This year is an exciting year for the AHS German department because my colleague, Ruth Trice, and I will be incorporating tablets into the classroom experience daily. I’m hoping to engage students even more through the use of technology in the classroom. As I plan lessons for this year, I will be thinking carefully about how these technologies can enhance instruction as well as expedite the language learning process for students. 

I also hope to differentiate for students better this year and to give students more choices. I’d like to give students the option of using technology to do activities, assignments, and projects. The tablets will be helpful in differentiating for students due to the personalization opportunities they offer.
In your eyes, what is the biggest challenge facing education currently?
One of the biggest challenges facing education currently is the necessity to differentiate instruction for all students. Students come to school with different background knowledge, learn in different ways and at different speeds, have different strengths and weaknesses, yet they often receive the same instruction and are expected to produce the same result. Many teachers find it challenging (time-wise, at least) to plan and incorporate individualized instruction for each student. Successful differentiation strategies have been implemented by some teachers, but I believe this issue remains a challenge for many.

I expect that the tablets that we will be implementing into the German classes this year will allow us to better differentiate for students, whether it’s by simply changing the size of the font for some students or by allowing students to choose how many times they listen to an audio clip.  I look forward to facing this challenge in the 2013-2014 school year and in the future.

For the next few weeks, to gain insight on what important lessons our young teachers learn early in their careers, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Meet Your Educator profiles will feature first- and second-year teachers.