June’s KBAY Teacher of the Month is Maria Tam, who received a Classroom Grant for a document camera to bring living history to life.
Grant helps to introduce students to the reality of the Holocaust
Maria received a Teacher Innovation Classroom Grant from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to purchase a Document Camera, a device that captures visual images by using a video camera and then projecting them onscreen.
Maria’s project is based on The Diary of Anne Frank, the story of a Jewish girl who died during the Holocaust. “Students have really been able to make a connection to Anne Frank; they feel for her that she lost so much and imagine what their own lives would have been if they had been in her shoes.”
The SVEF grant allows Maria to share primary source documents for the Holocaust unit that she is currently teaching. One of the teachers at Maria’s school has aunts who survived the Holocaust. “I want to share some of their family photos and artifacts, which she asked not be passed around the classroom. Some items, such as a prayer shawl, can be easily shown due to its size, but family photos cannot, so we can use the Document Camera.”
The Document Camera has many other uses in the classroom. With the Document Camera, Ms. Tam will be able to cut down the amount of transparencies and papers used. “If I continued using the overhead projector, each class would need its own set of transparencies. I want to avoid making five sets of CST prep transparencies when students can simply show their thinking on their own papers. Student papers can be recycled, but plastic overhead transparencies cannot.”
Biggest challenge: the achievement gap
In Maria’s opinion, the biggest challenge she faces in her classroom is bridging the achievement gap between students of different backgrounds. “I teach Language Arts to students who come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Finding a solution - specifically programs and interventions that work - has been a priority of my school and of my district.”
Introducing students to new aspects of the world through literature is what Maria likes most about being a teacher. “Many of my students had never heard about the Holocaust before we started our unit on the Holocaust, based on The Diary of Anne Frank. Many kids are amazed - and horrified - that something so outrageous could occur on such a large scale and cannot believe that genocide is still happening now.”
Maria has been teaching for eight years. She is currently teaching eighth grade at Thomas Russell Middle school and has taught seventh grade in the past. “I have taught at TRMS in Milpitas for five years and previously in Cesar Chavez Middle school in Hayward for three years.” Maria graduated from UCLA with a double major in History and East Asian Studies. After teaching Chinese and English in Beijing, China, for three years, she decided to go back to school in the United States to get her credentials to teach English/Literature/Language Arts. She received her credentials in 2004 and graduated with a Master degree in Secondary English Teaching in 2005.