Armstrong teachers talk individualized learning in panel discussion

Efila Jzar-Simpson, second from left, discusses her experiences teaching during the spring semester Armstrong panel

At this semester’s Armstrong panel, four distinguished educators gave their advice for teaching students on an individual level even as class sizes climb. 

Andrea McCoy, a science teacher at Center Grove Middle School Central in Greenwood, said that she uses ungraded, formative assessments to track each of her student’s progress. McCoy also stressed the importance of transparency. The assessments are an opportunity for her students to know what they need to work on, and McCoy said that she saw an increase in student empowerment because they “feel like they can make changes to reach their goals.”

A common theme throughout the panel was the importance of building relationships. Efila Jzar-Simpson, who teaches Spanish and ENL at Ben Davis University High School in Indianapolis, differentiates her instruction based on each class’ personality, while still making sure that all her students receive the same content. She advised the pre-service teachers to “figure out the best way for you and your content to reach your students.”

Jamie Inskeep, a sixth-grade teacher from Sugar Creek Elementary School in New Palestine, also emphasized building a strong classroom community, and said, “Don’t rush to get to content.”

As stated by Carroll Bilbrey, the Social Studies department chair of Herron High School in Indianapolis, although individualization may sometimes feel like an overwhelming burden, it is also necessary in becoming the good teacher that all educators strive to be.

The Armstrong Teachers are distinguished K-12 educators from Indiana who have at least five years of teaching experience. In addition to panel discussions, the Armstrong Teachers also conduct professional development workshops, collaborate with IU faculty as teachers-in-residence, and invite students from the School of Education to observe in their classrooms.

Grace McDougall is a sophomore secondary English education major with an ENL addition.