Saturday, May 7, 2011


Story by Ian McManis
Photos by Jay Yocis
Twenty young students sit, eager and attentive around an illuminated whiteboard, as their teacher recites rhyming passages from the digital projector. The youthful voices respond energetically, forming childish chord of excitement.
One student taps the board, prompting two virtual dice to roll across the screen in an addition equation. When asked for the answer, hands shoot into the air, fingers fluttering in enthusiasm. A girl is chosen and stands by the board, reciting the corresponding rhyme: “four plus four equals eight, that’s great!” She taps the board once more, and a third die spins to reveal the answer, illuminating her elated face.
The first graders at Winton Hills Academy take turns at the new interactive projector to practice their addition, while their teacher, ‘Miss Hansen’ aka Allie Hansen, assists. Hansen is a fourth year teacher education student in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) planning to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education this June 2011.
When Hansen requested an urban placement for her last student teaching assignment, she landed at Winton Hills Academy, a Cincinnati Public School located a few miles north of downtown Cincinnati. As Hansen arrived for class the first day, she noticed her students did not have the technology to broaden their learning experience, or even some of the most basic school supplies on hand.
Meeting the needs of a classroom through the social media village
She thought immediately to create a project request on, a website that connects classrooms in need to donors. Almost immediately, she raised $300 to provide basic educational supplies for her students. But as her experience grew, so did her passion for her students.
With a little fundraising money coming in, Hansen started a blog to document her experience. She wanted to do something big for her classroom and students, and thought social media would be effective in getting the word out. With much time and effort, Hansen raised $5,000 to purchase her classroom a Mimio interactive projector to give her students the exposure to technology.
“At first, I couldn’t help but to try to improve these children’s educational experience.” Hansen says, “I fundraised to allow them their first time experiencing paints, crafts, technology and good supplies to learn with. But then it became about how I could meet the basic needs of these kids.”
As it started to get cold, Hansen noticed many of her first graders walking to school without coats, hats or gloves. She learned that a large majority of them didn’t have the proper clothing, so she started a community-wide coat drive. She opened the drive up to other students throughout the school, and even to the families of students. The coat drive grew to include hats and gloves, and even pillows and blankets.
Hansen shares one student’s story, many more of which are featured on her blog: “I first had the idea to ask for blankets and pillows when I discovered one of my students walks several miles to school from a homeless shelter downtown.”
By December, Hansen knew many of her students on a personal level. She had gone above and beyond her role as a student teacher, and her cause had attracted enough local attention for the department store Kohls to donate a Christmas package for her students – Dr. Seuss books with matching stuffed animals.
Teaching experience offers a time to experiment, test your own style
With her placement at Winton Hills, Hansen used her creativity to complement her own personal teaching style, and advises all student teachers to try the same.

“The reason the education program at UC works so well is because I get to see hands-on how the things I learn are applied, and have the freedom to play with it,” says Hansen. “The teaching placements make all of the difference.”
“Take as many risks as you can and get out of your comfort zone. This is the time to make mistakes because you have your mentor teacher, your college professors, and your supervisor to keep you on the right track.” Hansen says, “Miss Wagner really let me do anything I want, but was always there to help me.”
Jennifer Wagner, 21-year veteran of Cincinnati schools, has never had a student teacher quite like Hansen. “Allie brings such an energy and excitement to be here,” Wagner says. “The kids and parents just love her, and she will definitely be missed.”
Wagner was able to see the effects of Hansen’s work inside and outside of the classroom throughout the year. The faculty at Winton Hills Academy had never witnessed this kind of effort from a student teacher before, and they were grateful for the impact that Hansen could bring to the school.
“When she asked if she could start a website for donations, the principal and faculty were very supportive,” Wagner said, “she got us the Mimio, and we were all impressed. She simply went above and beyond. She invested so much of herself into these kids, and did things that not many people would.”
Hansen finished her placement at Winton Hills Academy in March, and plans to return home to Colorado after graduation with her fiancĂ©. She hopes to work at an urban school in Denver and bring her experiences of improving not only her students’ education, but also affecting their lives.
Hansen still comes back and visits her students as a volunteer tutor as she finishes her degree. Her compassion for her students will serve as a new benchmark at Winton Hills Academy.
For more stories about her teaching experiences as ‘Miss Hansen’ and the initiatives that she brought to her classroom visit her blog at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First graders invade UC!

I already know that it will be more or less impossible to accurately describe what my children experienced yesterday while visiting the University of Cincinnati.
As the children walked into the classroom they knew they were in for a treat by the way I was bouncing up and down with excitement.
We arrived on campus around 9:00 AM at the Rec Center Circle. The children exited the bus staring up at the large buildings towering overhead. We started the day with a tour of the Rec center, snaking our long line of 50 first graders around the machines and students working out. When we had seen the whole facility the children got to play on the basketball courts. We rotated between basketball, volleyball, and corn hole stations. I think several children were experiencing stimulation overload because my typical busybodies were fairly calm and attentive. ☺
This next part had me nervous. We were going to walk up “Main Street”, the middle of campus, during one of the busiest times of the day- lunchtime! Here I was leading a long stream of students up the middle of the path as I received funny looks from UC students and faculty alike. At one point we were walking next to a young women, one of my students asked “Miss Hansen who is that?” (Assuming I know everyone at my school) I responded with “she is probably a UC student, why don’t you ask her what she is studying”. My student and this young woman had a nice conversation about what it meant to study Communication and why she had to go to class. I was proud that he felt comfortable and confident enough to ask questions and maintain a conversation (one point to Miss Hansen!).
We had the opportunity to eat lunch in the Annie Laws Conference Room located in the Teacher’s College thanks to some of my contacts. The children got to sit in “giant” black leather swivel chairs and feel like they were worth a million bucks! During lunch we had several visitors including the Dean of CECH! I was so proud to show off my students!!
After lunch we talked about how people get to college and why it is so important. I asked several students why they wanted to go to college,” I wanna fix butterflies… can you do that at college?” “I’m gonna be a police” This was a great opportunity to talk about the different degrees UC offers and possible career paths.
Then the part we had all been waiting for… we got to meet “real” football players!! As the children entered the team meeting room their eyes filled with excitement. There were at least fifteen 6’4”, 280 pound, players high-fiving the students as they came in. The children looked tiny sitting in chairs meant for bodies several times their size. The players introduced themselves and then the Head of Player Development gave some basic rules for our gathering.
* Must raise your hand and be called on to speak
* Must say your first and last name before talking
* Must speak with a loud and confident voice
I loved him! He had such authority in his voice, I was jealous!
We watched the 2010 Year Highlight video, which included a lot of gruesome tackles for the children to “oo” and “ahh”. After the video the students got to ask the players questions. These included “what is your number”, “do you live with your mom”, “does it hurt when they land on you”, and “is college hard”?
It was incredible to watch their faces, as if they were in the presences of true celebrities, staring open jawed and without blinking, they were more attentive than I had ever seen before.
To finish off our perfect day, the students and football players convened on the field; the boys played catch while the girls learned cheers from the cheerleaders. It was truly an unforgettable moment.
I would like to think I changed lives that day. That I exposed them to something they might have never seen before. The goal was to show them that there is more to life than what they see everyday. It is my hope that the children left with an excitement towards college, towards staying in school and towards exceeding low expectations.
I know it is unrealistic to say that, because of this experience, all 50 first graders will stay in school and graduate college. A handful of girls are likely to become pregnant before the age of 18, boys will find that gang members respect them more than teachers, and the students with behavior problems will be tagged “ unable to learn”. Before they know it their unfortunate choices will have chosen their future.
I want my students to leave this year knowing that they can do more in life than what society tells them they are capable of. I want them to know that when no one else does, I believe in them. I want them to know I loved them and that they changed my life more than they could ever know.

- A Thrilled Miss Hansen

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who's Responsibility is it?

I seem to keep coming back to this issue, should we hold children accountable for their parent’s responsibilities?

Homework requires parent signature- parent or child’s responsibility?

Child can’t attend field trip because they are frequently tardy- parent or child’s responsibility?

We say “tell your mom and dad you have to get to school on time” but in reality, how much control does a 7 year old have?!? I am going to say not a whole lot! So if we keep the child back from a field trip, especially one that might expose them to something they may never encounter again, are we doing it to “prove a point” or because we really feel that the child is not doing their job?

- A Not Convinced Miss Hansen

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Data Proves Me Wrong

I have been fighting the issue of homework since the beginning of school. Students have homework every school night. They have to have their planner signed, read their reading paper with their parents and have that signed, do their 1 minute reading fluency and have it also signed. Our homework policy is that if children do not return their homework every morning signed they do not get a recess. They have to stand "on the line" for the entire recess. I do not like this policy for 2 reasons, 1) the majority of our parents do not participate in their children’s education at all. Several have even told us "they won’t be signin nothin". 2) Children need chances to run around and get their energy out. We are constantly telling them to be still, but then take away the one time they are allowed to move around.
Why do we continue to punish the child when their parents refuse to follow through and why make both the child's day and the teacher’s day more stressful by not letting them get their energy out??
But... According to the data I have collect... I am wrong.
More children bring their homework when there is a consequence of missing recess.
While this KILLS ME, I can not deny that my theory (at this time and with this class) is faulty.
So we go back to standing on the line. Hopefully the number of homework turned in will increase with the reinforcement of a consequence.
- A sad/ frustrated/ disappointed/ humbled Miss Hansen

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

Apparently my children are Jerry and Maury fans. Great! A 7 year old girl was able to tell me that "girls be fightin all the time cause people be cheatin". She is 7.
A boy chimed in with "they be talkin on Maury bout cheatin too"

- :O Miss Hansen

Time for a classroom meeting

After lunch today I was DONE with mean words! I told my children we were going to have a class meeting about some of the things that I had been noticing in our classroom. I told them I had seen a lot of
- Mean words (you ugly, that’s not right, and the most popular you a fast cheeseburger"
- Tattle tailing (with NO other purpose than trying to get peers in trouble)
- Whining
- I can't I can't I can't- drives me CRAZY

I asked what they thought and if they were seeing the same things that I did. They all said yes, and that they didn't like when people said mean words because it made them angry and sad. I tried to explain to them that if children feel scared at school and are worried about what their class mates are saying about them they won’t be able to learn.

I feel like as much as first graders can they listened and they understood what I was talking about. I told them my moms rule always was "treat others like you want to be treated". Hopefully this will make a difference in our classroom atmosphere!

- A sick of whining Miss Hansen

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

First graders invade UC!

I am working on planning a field trip for the first grade students to visit The University of Cincinnati’s campus in April. We will start by meeting several UC Football players in Nippert Stadium to talk about how important it is to stay and school and attend college. They will have time to ask the players questions and play ball on the field.
Next we will tour UC’s recreation center stopping in the basketball courts to play basketball.

After the tour we will eat lunch in Annies Law Conference room in Teachers College where the students get to sit at “big tables” and swivel chairs (this will be what they talk about for a week ☺). Finally we will spend time in a large classroom. The children are going to do some “work” and we will finish with something like, “you saw all these fun things that you get to do at college, but in order to get to college you have to go to school”. To follow up the activity the children will write thank you notes to the players and answer the question “when I grow up I want to be”.

I feel like too often children aren’t really introduced to the idea/ the importance of college until close to the 8th grade. Why not expose children at a young age to college and get them excited about education while they still have a love for education.

- An excited Miss Hansen

"You a fat cheeseburger"

Lately my children have been mean! This is the newest phrase going on in my classroom. I have one child who is overweight and has been having issues with peers calling him names. Whenever we hear this happening we address it on the spot, but it is hard to monitor this outside of the classroom. Recently there has been a lot of problems happening in the after school program between several first grade students. I want to address the issue but I don’t know how to get the point across when in their culture it is “ok or normal” to use these disrespectful words.

- A concerned Miss Hansen

He be "perpin"

I am constantly learning new “words” in my classroom. On a weekly basis the children use a word that I have never heard before and I have to ask for clarifications. The children love that they get to “teach Miss Hansen” something for a change. Today I was speaking to a child’s grandmother and she said “he keep saying he don’t feel good but he just perpin”. “HUH??” I politely responded with “I'm sorry but what does perpin mean?” apparently it means lying or fibbing.

I told her I am always learning new slang around here! She laughed and said “you know one time I was workin at another school and this fine white teacher (I'm not racist I'm just sayin he be white) and he kept telling me “you so hot”. I didn’t understand what he was saying! I just said, “thank you” but I couldn’t figured out what I had done. Do you know what that means?” I informed her it meant she was sexy!! She was so surprised the guy was hitting on her it was hysterical! It makes me feel better that I'm not just “the white girl” that doesn’t know common slang!

-Miss Hansen

Interacting with Parents

In the 8th grade I got my first hand-me-down cell phone. I was only supposed to use the phone if I needed to talk to my parents and to play the game snake. As I got to high school I got my first new phone and it became more ok for me to make calls to my friends. I will admit that I have always had unlimited minutes and text messages because I was on my dad’s plan. I never had to worry about getting in a situation where there is an emergency and I was “out of minutes”.

I cant tell you how often we call students parents only to discover they are “out of minutes” for the month. So now we are in a situation where they don’t read their child's planner, because of laziness or they are illiterate, so they don’t see a note from the teacher and they cant be reached on the phone. What are teachers supposed to do when you kid is sick? Or failing first grade? Or got in a fight and is now suspended??

- Miss Hansen

Teaching 1st graders about money is stressful!!

My unit plan this quarter was teaching children about money. The first grade standards focus on identifying the value and name of a coin, adding small groups of coins, and showing different combinations of coins for a set value. My unit was scheduled to take 6 days but ended up taking 12! The children needed a solid 4 days of review and practice before they started to feel more comfortable adding small groups of coins. Today I did my final assessment. There were two parts to the assessment, one a written “test” where the children had to “count on” and write the value of a small set of coins and the other was an oral and hands on assessment. I told the children they were going to a candy shop but in order to buy something they had to show two ways to use coins to make up the set price. It was very clear which children understood the concept of adding coins and who did not! I feel frustrated that not everyone got as much out of the unit as I had hoped but I think some are just not ready for it. We will be starting measurement next week but will continue to give them opportunities to practice their new skills.

- A stressed out Miss Hansen

One Size Fits All- Reading Programs

Every teacher would agree that children learn to read at their own pace and in their own ways. Techniques like chunking, context clues, and sound words out are popular ways of teaching children the basic skills needed to learn how to read. So if we all know children learn differently and are all at different levels, why do we use reading programs that’s “one size fits all”.

At our school we use a reading program called Voyager. The first grade theme is about a group of children who learn about the sea. Through the year the children are exposed to a variety of literature genres and are able to make connections with the characters. However, while I like the repetition the program supplies, asking our high reading group and low reading group to read the same thing is just silly. I have children who should be learning to read chapter books and others who should be learning their sight words and letter combinations. It is just painfully slow and so frustrating (for everyone involved) for the low children to get through the reading each day.

I feel that the Guided Reading set up (where books are selected for children based on their reading level) would give children more of what they need to excel. I try to differentiate the lessons based on level, for example asking the high group more abstract questions and giving the low group opportunities to succeed.

- Miss Hansen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Years Traditions

The Tuesday we came back to school was an exciting day! The children appeared to be refreshed and re energised for school. As we sat on the rug discussing our break I got several expected answers:
"I played in the snow"
"I went to my grandma's house"
"my mommy had a baby",
"We didnt hear shots at midnight so we were sad"... Wait What??!?!

I was totally confused so I asked for more information.
 "What do you mean "shots", like fireworks?"
 "No Miss Hansen shots, we stay in side and wait but we didn't hear any so we were sad".

 Still confused I moved on deciding to figure this out when not everyone was around. So when we went to lunch,  I asked the other teachers if they knew what this child was talking about. Everyone did except the White girl from Parker, CO!
Apparently on New Years it is a tradition for those in the neighborhood to go out and fire their weapons into the sky as a form of celebration! The children are used to having to stay inside because "its shooting out there". (This phrase is used in the same way one might say "its raining out there", because of its regularity).

Crazy right!!!!

-Miss Hansen

Recess: Right or Gift?

Let me start by saying I think I truly have the best mentor teacher possible. She is willing to let me try almost anything in her classroom, which provides me with great incite into what works and what doesn't. She has let me totally change the set up of our room as well as add reading and writing workshop. She rocks!

The one thing we really don't agree on is Recess. In my opinion, (obviously because this is my blog) recess is a right. It is unrealistic to expect young children to have the ability and motivation to "sit still and behave" for 8 hours straight. He** I cant attend one of our 3 hour classes with out leaving the room at least 3 times.

In most careers, adults are in control of their own schedules. They can pee when the want, eat when they want, stand up when the want, etc. But in many classrooms, the children are given little choice/ control if any. They are told "no you can not use the restroom right now, it is inconvenient for me!" In my opinion, this is unrealistic and not productive at all. I believe there needs to be boundaries for the child to follow, but everyone knows, when you "gotta go" all you are thinking about is how bad you have to "use it" (as my children say). Meaning, even if they aren't in the bathroom during instructional time they aren't paying attention at all!

Recess is the one time during the day that a child can choose to run, slide, skip, climb or sit. The one time during the day they truly are in control. The phrase "they aren't paying attention, they don't deserve recess" is totally counterproductive! If they can't sit still and pay attention, it is CRUCIAL they have time to run around and get their energy out!

Right now in Cincinnati it has been too cold to go outside :( So we dance! The children love the song "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" and yesterday we learned the "Cha Cha slide". This doesn't give them the same relief as running out side, but they seem to really enjoy it and it helps get their wiggles out.

Any other song ideas would be greatly appreciated!!!

- Miss Hansen

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Days Back

After a wonderful day to end the quarter I was more than excited for my first day back. I spent 4 hours before break in the classroom moving things around and countless hours of thinking about new things I wanted to try. After all the planning I felt confident as the children walked into the classroom yesterday.

I changed around the seating arrangements for the quarter. We have two "normal" tables, a standing table, and a table that is on the floor where they sit on a rug. The children were eager to try out the new tables!

 We also introduced Reading and Writing Workshop, where children have an opportunity to read literature and work on their writing skills.
I had expectations for Writing workshop which I feel now may be a bit high. When I envisioned it I saw the children really sitting down and writing about something. But the children have had no real experience selecting their own topic and formulating ideas (first, then, finally) so there was a lot of confusion. Today we went step by step starting with the date and title then determining what to write. I am still not satisfied but it is only day 2 so we are going to keep trying.

I am both excited and nervous to become lead teacher next week. I am lucky to have a mentor teacher who will let me try new things!!!

-A Hopeful Miss Hansen