Hello! We hope you have a nice warm cup of coffee for today’s Educator Spotlight featuring Janie Mueller, a chemistry teacher at Cheyenne Mountain High School with 39 years of experience in the field who is still so passionate about inspiring her students each and every day. We are excited to share Ms. Mueller’s insights with you and we hope that you are inspired as well! I
Ms. Mueller is in her last year of teaching, and she commented on how it was always her dream to teach and she is so glad that she did. She fell in love with teaching chemistry to high schoolers and has thoroughly enjoyed it ever since.
As for the abrupt switch to remote teaching, Ms. Mueller described it as feeling like her first year of teaching all over again. She had to learn so much in such a short amount of time and constantly revamp her lesson plans, not to mention the agony she felt for the students who were so incredibly stressed and distraught. It was so hard for her to only get to see the kids once or twice a week on Zoom, and at this point she sees them in person some days but not every day due to the cohort/block schedule system.
She spoke about how some of the challenges with this environment include the way that she has to create alternate lesson plans for students who are in quarantine due to COVID and who miss in-person classes, and she mentioned how it can be a struggle to be in constant communication with all the students and their families and administration and everyone all at once. Another huge challenge is in the realm of testing—she feels sick to her stomach knowing that it can be so easy for students to cheat online and to grow up feeling as if they can always cheat the system, and so she does everything that she can to urge them to choose integrity and self-discipline.
Ms. Mueller’s technological resources that she relies on include WeVideo and EdPuzzle, both of which are engaging and interactive for students. If she could give advice to her past self at the beginning of the pandemic, she wishes she could have prepared herself for the immense increase in workload that was coming her way—oftentimes she ends up working 14 hour days just to try to keep up with the ever changing state of education and to check in and help all of her students.
One of the most positive experiences that she has had during teaching remotely was when one of her very good friends (a recently retired chemistry teacher) stepped up in a huge way to do all that she could to help Ms. Mueller with her workload. Her friend wrote five different versions of the chemistry exam with in-depth questions and enough variation so that students wouldn’t be able to cheat by comparing questions with each other, and she also came and helped Ms. Mueller to record videos of several of the labs that the students would need to do write-ups about. The past few weeks Ms. Mueller’s friend even came into the school to help set up labs for the kids to do which was such a huge help.
If Ms. Mueller could give advice to a new teacher, she would advise them to make sure that they are passionate about kids and love to help them and inspire them, as well as to get involved in their extracurricular activities so you can see their world outside of class. Another thing that she loves to do is write encouraging handwritten notes to students and send home letters of praise to parents when their student is doing well—she mentioned how it is always a struggle for students to have high self-esteem and that they usually don’t get to hear many positives, so she has found this to be an awesome way of encouraging them and to show them how adults see them. She chooses to do the work to go above and beyond as a teacher, and in normal years she even gives out a self-evaluation to students for them to fill out so they get a chance to tell her how she can improve, and she has learned so much from them in this way.
We are so thankful to Ms. Mueller for sharing her experiences with us—it is so admirable how she is filled with integrity and chooses every day to do the work to positively impact her students’ lives. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you tomorrow!