Teaching was the outgrowth of two things in Melissa Horton’s life: her love of learning and desire to help others.
“The two just came together,” says Horton, a fifth grade teacher at Walnut Hills Elementary in Urbandale.
Horton says that growing up, becoming a teacher was always in the back of her mind. After a few of her math teachers in middle and high school helped develop her love for the subject, she decided she wanted to do the same for kids.
At the University of Northern Iowa, she first thought she’d like to teach secondary math. But she decided she wanted to work with younger students instead.
“I very much appreciate the variety in the day and encouraging that overall love of learning,” she says. “I like the older students because you can go a little deeper into the subjects, but you still see that kid spirit in them.”
The biggest change in the classroom has been the use of technology, which Horton says has not only altered how she teaches, but also the work students are producing.
“I’m excited to see the push to 21st century skills and how they use technology to enhance their learning,” Horton says.
One instance has been using a “flipped classroom” approach in math. Students watch an online video the night before on the specific topic, Horton explains, then come to class to do the hands-on work.
She says she’s seen a definite improvement in students’ understanding, partly because this approach gives them more time to comprehend the topic. It also frees up more classroom time to work on their skills.
As someone who loves to learn, Horton is continually wanting to improve her professional skills. She is currently pursuing a master’s in an area she’s very passionate about, differentiated instruction, which is ensuring that what’s taught in the classroom meets the needs of all learners, she says.
One thing parents can do to help support their child’s education is to just communicate with their kids, Horton encourages. Ask them how their school day was, who their friends are and what they like.
“Just talk with them about what they’re doing at school and be aware of what they’re learning,” she says.