Meet Angela Harvala, a 5th grade teacher at North Elementary in Princeton. She recently received the Milken Educator award for excellence in the world of education. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Angela through the Leading Forward program at the Marzano Center at Resource, so we decided to share some of her expertise with you.
One of the reasons Angela’s students love her is because of the bond she creates with each of them. Angela actively works to create that relationship by getting to know each child’s personal story and by identifying their strengths. “Students are much more willing to work when I can show them that they are important to me,” said Angela. That bond makes the trust and enthusiasm in the classroom contagious. “If I’m excited about what they’re learning, then they’re excited about what they’re learning. If I’m excited when they make small gains, then they’re excited when they make small gains. Ultimately, my goal is to give them confidence as they move forward with their education versus just teaching them the lessons of 5th grade. That confidence is so much more important to instill in them,” said Angela.
Another focus from Angela’s classroom comes right out of the Resource Leadership Academy Angela attended in 2013. As part of the Marzano Framework, Angela was introduced to the concept of learning goals and scales. “It made an immediate effect on my classroom. I could watch the students be able to articulate their own growth. In the past students would say ‘I just don’t get it, I don’t understand’ – it’s hard as a teacher to be able to work with that. But when they say, ‘Miss Harvala, I understand this little piece of the two, but it’s this other little piece of the two that’s making it hard to move to the three.’ It gives us a language for dialogue,” said Angela.
Angela had the perfect example of this principle in action to share - “Just today I was teaching math. There is a little girl who often struggles with the concepts we’re teaching. Many of her peers were a three within just a few examples. For her, the way it was being presented wasn’t ideal. I could see in her face that she wasn’t getting it. So, I presented the topic a little differently to her and I watched her eyes light up in response. ‘Oh, I understand why we’re doing this now Miss Harvala, this makes sense to me. I’m still not a two, but I’m getting closer!’ Without having those scales to use she doesn’t have the language to articulate. She doesn’t get to celebrate those small successes. One is definitely not where we want kids to be, but knowing that she’s getting closer to a two and then a three and then eventually being able to master that topic – she’s almost in tears because she’s starting to understand and she’s able to look at the scale and know she’s improving. To me that’s been the most impactful part.”
As we just heard, celebrating success is the icing on the cake – but there’s no cake required according to Angela. “It’s important for people to understand it’s the small successes. You don’t have to do the big dance party (or supply cake) to move forward. Just simply being able to empower students with a tool to be able to say, ‘here’s my evidence that I’m moving forward,’ that is celebration of success. You need to help the student recognize the progress and that’s enough to keep them excited and moving,” said Angela.
As part of the Leading Forward program offered through Resource, Angela has learned the science of teaching that goes along with the art of teaching that comes so naturally to her. “Just as I tell students that they all have the capacity for tremendous growth, the same is true for teachers. Students, society, education, and understanding are continually evolving. The best parts are the new challenges. Just like my students are excited about their growth, I find myself excited as I grow as a teacher. This framework gives me guidance for my own growth and it revolutionized the way I teach,” said Angela.
To learn more about the Leadership Academies at Resource contact Tammy Quist at (320) 255-3236.