Self-proclaimed computer nerd Heather Crosser has been named the new math teacher at The Island School.
The high-energy Crosser promises this school year will be one to remember.
She left a lucrative career at IBM because she missed having children in her work life. She worked at the Iowa Children's Museum throughout her pursuit of an undergraduate degree and it left an impact.
Heather Crosser, new math teacher at The Island School
"(IBM) was corporate America," Crosser said. "It wasn't my thing. I was born to teach. I've wanted to teach since I was a little girl."
Here's what Crosser believes will happen this year in her classroom at The Island School.
QUESTION: Why did you move to Lakeland eight years ago after a lifetime of living in the Midwest?
Birth date: Sept. 19, 1974
Occupation: New math teacher at The Island School
Residence: Cape Haze
Family: married 18 years with two boys and one daughter
Education: bachelor's degree from University of Iowa in management information systems, master's degree in education from DePaul University
Discovered Boca Grande: My mom used to live here five years ago and my brother lives in Englewood. So we've been coming to the Englewood area a lot and we'd come out to (Gasparilla) Island all the time. We'd come out by this little quaint school, I called it. I didn't apply anywhere else because I wanted this Island School. It's a minute from the beach, I mean, c'mon! It's beautiful. I just think it's cool.
ANSWER: We were tired of the cold and tired of the frozen toes. My husband had some family living in central Florida. But living in central Florida wasn't truly living in Florida. I mean, where's the beach?
Q: How do you energize students coming off summer vacation to hit the books with gusto?
A: They are going to be bummed but it will take about one day of getting to know me and they're going to love it. They are going to love the environment they are coming into. I'm kind of a technology and education expert. I'm doing math K through fifth grade at The Island School. We'll do science, too.
Q: What's the key to starting off the new school year on the right foot?
A: That's a good question to ask. This will be my ninth year of teaching and I love teaching. Every year you need to look at it as a brand-new year even through you have your experience. Every year you go with a fresh attitude. The key to it is positive environment with positive reinforcement, classroom management and establishing those rule from the start and just creating a respect: a respect from the student and from the parents to really form what I call the three-legged stool of education. It takes the teacher, student and the parents to have a successful year.
Q: Have the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests become too rigorous to the point of being unfair to students and teachers who must teach to the tests?
A: I know it's definitely tougher, FCAT 2.0. I know they are raising the bar and that's a positive thing. This is a very tough world these children are growing up in. We have to prepare our students for a very global, high-tech world. And American children to me, we are lacking compared with some countries. Raising the bar and making FCAT tougher - don't make excuses. I see these teachers (at The Island School) making effective changes. If you're doing the right things in your classroom, engaging the students, if the teacher is doing their job, I have no fear that we will excel in FCAT. I've never had a kid fail the FCAT.
Q: Have you ever taught in an open school setting such as The Island School where students progress at their own pace and grades co-mingle in classes?
A: No, I have not. However, I have taught all different ages. At the charter school South McKeel Academy in Lakeland I taught third grade for several years and sixth grade for several years. Last year I taught technology to kindergarten through fifth but not in a mixed environment.
Q: What's going to happen this year at The Island School in your classroom?
A: What's going to happen this year is pretty awesome. We'll have the kindergarteners separate, the first- and second-graders together and the fourth and fifth together.
Q: What do you think of a blended educational environment?
A: To me it actually allows for so much growth in those kids. For instance, first-graders hearing and learning concepts for the second grade and catching on to them. The second-graders get to play the leader role and get to be kind of teachers. It becomes very intertwined and it will be great.
Q: Why has technology become your calling card professionally?
A: I'm very big on teaching technology education. I present at technology conferences all the time. I presented at the International Society for Technology and Education previously in San Antonia and Philadelphia and this summer in San Diego. I'm a big nerd, a big technology nerd.
Q: How did you connect with Boca Grande and The Island School?
A: My son graduated from a collegiate high school this year, I'm very proud of him, but he graduated, so now we could leave central Florida. I love central Florida and South McKeel and that's the toughest part to be leaving, however, we feel as if we've never really moved to Florida. You think the beach. When they called and asked if I'd teach math K through five, I said absolutely.
Q: What are your plans to integrate technology with the curriculum?
A: I'm a really big Technology Girl. I plan on really using technology, especially with the third through fifth group. It's my goal to get a 1-to1 iPad ratio. I think we only have one iPad. This school is amazing. It has all these resources available and I am going to use them.
Q: What do you do outside the classroom for fun?
A: Our hobbies are running. My whole family runs. Pretty cool. My so was a track star in high school. We actually started running with him. He made it look so easy. But it was tough for the rest of us. We had to start out walking, walking. But now we're avid runners. I've run a half-marathon in St. Pete. It was tough. I probably will never do a half-marathon again. Our whole family will be singing up for the Gasparilla Run. Running keeps you young and energetic