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Holy trinity episcopal academy

Mrs. Givens

Upper School Writing
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Harvard University; Master of Teaching, Rhode Island College
How do you feel you can help students to “Start Here. Go Anywhere.”?  
“Despite all of its fragility, life’s full of possibility. Let’s make it a celebration - here’s to our own reincarnation!” Those are the words I share as part of my “Welcome back to school” routine, and they sum up my answer. I help students realize the infinite possibilities of their future by helping them reach their full potential in their academics, and by teaching them valuable life lessons that will help them succeed in school, college, and beyond. Critical thinking and effective writing skills are essential!
What is the most important life lesson you want a child to learn in your classroom?
May they become lifelong learners!  I want my students to look at me as a role model for being a lifelong, curious, eager learner, and I want to help ignite a passion for learning in them that never goes out. As William Wordsworth says, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Just as importantly, I also try to be a role model outside of school, in all that I do. I try to embody living in such a way as to seek out the beauty in our world, to find the balance in our days, and to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Often, I see my students and former students locally - at the library, the gym, and church. In addition to helping students learn academics, I hope to help our students to develop the life skills they need to find their own path. They must be able to discern the truth, and to excel in their chosen field as they come of age in a complex, complicated world of information overload. Most importantly, I hope to be a role model and inspiration of Christian faith and living. Harvard’s motto is “Ve-Ri-Tas” or “Seek the truth,” and it serves us well.
How do you inspire a student who has a hard time with your subject area?
First, I ask why they are struggling. I gather information, listen, and observe them. I ask them questions to help them and help myself gain perspective and understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, and areas where they need to improve. Then, we look at their strengths and weaknesses, and set a realistic but challenging short-term goal for the student. An example might be to rewrite a few key assignments. If necessary, I reteach key concepts utilizing different techniques, resources, and learning modalities. We make a plan for helping the student reach their learning goal, and execute the plan. Lastly, we get together and reevaluate what worked, what didn't, and what might happen next. I make this plan with parents and support from administrators and counselors where appropriate. The key to motivating a struggling student is having high expectations of them, and then giving them the skills, tools, and time to achieve those expectations. I truly believe that every student can learn, we just have to find the right mode of instruction for each one. Teaching is not "one size fits all" instruction.
How do you apply the latest technology in your class?
Knowing how to successfully use technology and how to navigate the media is an essential component of our “Global IQ.” I rely on our technology team and go to every training they offer! Then, I take risks - I try things that scare me, things that I have never done before, such as making commercials on iPads, or telling digital stories for essays on Chromebooks. This is the world our children must thrive in. They need a high global IQ to succeed in tomorrow’s world, and being fluent with many types of technology is a huge part of that IQ.
How do you keep current with the subject areas you cover?
I attend MANY conferences and training and professional development sessions, and I challenge myself to learn new things and do new things all the time. For example, teaching the SAT and ACT college prep training was very beneficial to me, as well as all of my students. Knowing what our students need to do to pass those tests enables me to tailor my instruction to give them the skills they need to do well. I also read voraciously about everything from writing to nutrition to pet care, and attend as many conferences as I can - usually two per year. I recently attended the Florida Teachers of English Conference and the Florida Independent Schools conferences which gave me a solid foundation in the special skills needed by an independent school teacher, as well as new lessons for teaching effective writing classes.  Last year, I attended writing workshops by Dr. Melissa Forney and Barry Lane, two famous innovators and educators who specialize in teaching engaging, powerful writing instruction for teachers of students in the middle and high school. This year, I am going to a College Board training session for AP English Composition.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received or could receive as a teacher?
One of the best compliments I ever received was when a parent told me, "I'm sending all of my children to your writing class. And then, they are going to take your Contemporary Issues class in high school!" It is at once both inspiring and humbling to be given such a gift of faith and trust as one receives when a parent requests you for their child’s teacher. I take that honor seriously and am grateful for the opportunity and time I get to be a teacher to some of the most dedicated students I have ever known here at Holy Trinity. Being a Holy Trinity Teacher is one of the greatest blessings of my life!
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1720 Peachtree St., Melbourne, FL 32901
P: 321.723.8323 | F: 321.723.2553

5625 Holy Trinity Dr., Melbourne, FL 32940
P: 321.723.8323 | F: 321.241.6422
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