November Teacher of the Month Jessica Butler holding a sloth

How long have you been teaching, and how did you get started? 

I have been teaching now for roughly 3 1/2 years, and I started as a program director for before- and after-school programs during the day. They asked me if I’d be interested in subbing. 

So I said yes. 

Then, once I started getting into the classrooms, I was bouncing all over. I just was enjoying it, and then it just transferred to, “Well, could I do this?” It just became a domino effect thing. It wasn’t something that I knew that I wanted until much later in life. And then, once I got into it, I didn’t want to let go of it. 

What age, subject, or specialty do you teach? 

4th Grade ELA and social studies, as well as a writing course. 

Jessica Butler dressed as a surgeon for her class, demonstrating dedication and creativity in her teaching approach.
Jessica sometimes transforms her classroom for the lesson of the day.

What are some of the traditional (non-digital) resources you use with learners? 

We take it back to the writing journal! Writing journals are still huge and very important. The learning-how-to-write foundations have been a little skewed ever since COVID, and kids are losing a lot of those basic foundations. 

So, I think the writing journal is probably one of the most important tools that I use every single day. They have to write—even if it’s for 5 minutes—they have to write. So they’re building the ability to see that they can pull things out of their brains even when they think they can’t. 

essica Butler's door signs for the day, creatively transformed to resemble an operating room, setting the stage for an immersive learning experience.
Simple decorations can stimulate students’ imagination.

What challenges have you faced with using technology in your classroom?  

The different variety of levels. When I went to school, there was an actual typing course, and we had to learn how to type and where the keys were, and we had to try and do it without looking. Now kids are just kind of handed something, like “here”. Some kids have adapted very quickly to technology. Others don’t adapt so quickly, and then, of course, you have those students who are free with technology and others who are not. 

So you’ve got that wide spectrum: I’ve got kids down here and up here. That requires patience. Not everybody’s on the same page, so I think teaching patience to students when they’re dealing with technology is probably also teaching adults patience. 

Do you think you can use Boom Cards in your classroom to improve your student engagement? 

We have something called RSI Daily, which is a response to intervention, and so Boom Cards would be a great tool to be able to utilize for some of my students who are maybe a little bit below level or for advanced students. I could put them up on something higher. I think it could give me the opportunity depending on what topics I know I have to fit in. 

A lot of times, once students have hit or mastered certain skills you like to reward them or give them something that they think is fun. 

But it’s still educational, so it could be a great tool to use as a reward system, too. 

What advice would you give to someone who is new to teaching? 

Find one thing, find one focus, and when you find that one focus, hone in on it. Be the best that you can be at that one thing, whatever it is that you’re going to focus on. And then, after that, look to expand your horizons. Jumping into something that maybe someone more experienced is doing that’s been in the field forever, just, it can be very overwhelming. 

It’s a remarkable field because teachers are some of the most generous people that I’ve ever met who are willing to give and give and give. But, to someone new, a lot of giving can be very scary. 

So, I think that I would say just pick one thing, one big rock, as we call it in my school, to focus on. And once you have that big rock down, then move on to another. 

What advice would you give to a teacher who is about to retire? 

Man, there are so many incredible moments I think that teachers who are about to retire could take with them. I guess one of the great things about teachers is that most of us try to implement and stay up to date with things that are happening and include them in our classrooms or our students’ lives. 

So, I would say: still keep up with things. That way, if they have grandkids or grandchildren, they can still be, you know, in the mix with everyone.

They can feel like they’re part of the growth that’s happening, even though they may not be in a classroom anymore. 

Does your student population require differentiation instruction, and if so, what are your go-to strategies in your classroom? 

Yes, we definitely do in my classroom. I scaffold my lessons down for some of my students who were probably about two or more grade levels below where we should be. 

So I will start my students there, and then once they have been able to master that, I can scaffold them up to the next level . Then, hopefully, eventually get them on with their peers.

How do you keep students from feeling self-conscious in a mixed-level class? 

If one student is struggling in this one area, but they’re really strong in another, I’ll mix up their groups. 

So my students aren’t always in the same groups all the time. 

Therefore, they can’t associate themselves with being on a certain level because they never know what I’m pulling them for. 

Do you think that you could see yourself using Boom Cards to help you in the classroom and make your teaching life easier? 

Yes, anytime you have a resource that can keep your students engaged, while you’re able to pull off with another set [of students] and help them focus on what it is you need them to focus on—any time there are resources like that, they’re always helpful. 

Editor’s note: It’s easy to differentiate resources by hiding cards (including cards with hints)! You can get started using Boom Cards with these fun activities:

Boom Cards for 4th-grade students, featuring medical vocabulary to support young learners in understanding healthcare terminology.
Virtual doctor visit Boom Cards, designed for 4th graders to explore medical scenarios in a fun and educational way.
Interactive 4th-grade multiplication Boom Cards, a dynamic math resource to engage and reinforce essential multiplication skills.
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