It all started with Mike Cooney’s blog.  Mike, an SU School of Education alumnus, and now Mays Chapel Elementary teacher, shares his perspective on teaching in a personal blog that showcases his unique insight on teaching elementary students. Several SU faculty follow his blog and after reading a riveting entry that highlighted his journey from teacher candidate to present, we knew we just had to have him come speak to our senior teacher candidates about how he has learned to support and engage students in learning!

On February 10, 2015, over 100 teacher candidates, mentors, and faculty assembled to hear Mr. Cooney share his story in a dynamic and exciting professional learning presentation highlighting specific student centered teaching  strategies like allowing students to choose their own physical learning space and tasks, encouraging student curiosity and wonder, and finding the right question to jumpstart a lesson. Mike’s presentation included student work samples and videos of students talking about why they liked choosing spaces in the classroom to learn and how much they learned when they were given opportunities to work together on group projects.

Melissa Pinkney shared, “Mr Cooney captured our attention by giving us great ideas to promote student engagement for all students by using classroom space effectively, giving students learning choices, and encouraging students to take risks.”

After Mike’s presentation, participants gathered and investigated student engagement topics in lively discussion groups.  Each group created a whiteboard and virtual mindmap from text2mind to showcase what they learned with everyone.  The room hummed with laughter, conversation, and enthusiasm as teacher candidates, mentors, and faculty explored unique student-centered strategies to connect to their classrooms.

Nickolette Koons, Barbara Lutz (mentor), Samantha Simpson, Kayla Matthews, Cassandra Fridinger,  and Kacy Polhaus share ideas.



Example of teacher candidate mindmap.

Teacher Candidate Kaitlyn Carbaugh explained, "As a soon to be first year teacher, I found Mike Cooney's presentation to be both inspirational and informative. Because of his classroom pictures and videos, I saw how any classroom could be student-centered and just how beneficial that is for students. Having a student-centered classroom does not only mean changing the environment. Although classroom arrangement is important, it is most important to give students choice. Allowing students to sit where they please and complete tasks of their choice is how a classroom becomes student centered. Choice, with boundaries, provides students with motivation to become independent, successful students.”

Molly Malloy summed it up by saying “Mr. Cooney brought our attention to an area of teaching that can often be overlooked. Engagement or motivation should not only occur in the beginning of the lesson but should be incorporated throughout the entire lesson."

The evening ended with a question and answer session with Mr. Cooney.  Everyone left with a renewed purpose to make sure all of our students are engaged, involved, and empowered to learn.

Check out Mr. Cooney’s blog here!