“When you are laughing, you are open to learning,” says Tia Tsosie-Begay, a fourth-grade teacher at Los Niños Elementary, a Title I school in Tucson, Arizona. “Humor lets students trust me to help them—they are willing to make mistakes and fix them.” Tsosie-Begay, who grew up in the Navajo Nation, says one of her biggest challenges is to build background knowledge of the world—and she does that partly through technology. “I introduced students to Google Earth—they were amazed that someone had mapped their homes and that they could visit places like New York City or the lakes of Arizona!” Most important, she says, is believing in each child’s potential. “Every day, we have a fresh start, a chance to start over.”

The Basics

School: Los Niños Elementary, Tucson, Arizona

Career Path: Tsosie-Begay began her career teaching grades 1–2. After getting her master’s degree in educational leadership, she worked for five years as a mentor and Title I program facilitator. Last year, she returned to the classroom to teach fourth grade.

Teaching Philosophy: “Activate the mind, activate the citizen: My job is to make content enjoyable and make sure that students question the world around them.”

Cool Project

Creating a PSA: “For ELA, students had to create a public service announcement for high schoolers on the importance of voting. They collected significant facts about the suffrage movement (on Susan B. Anthony, etc.) and included voting information about current events that would have a direct effect on current high schoolers. The kids then used WeVideo to edit their video together. Some of them even added music and video of themselves speaking personally about how specific issues are important to them!”

Tia’s Top Tech Tools

With Google Docs, “kids can collaborate on writing and editing. Often, they will sit side by side with their laptops and share a document.”

Socrative “lets students answer questions and quickly quantifies responses. I review them and give immediate feedback to students who are off base.”

ClassDoJo “is one of the best classroom management tools I’ve used. Kids are able to see their positive points at the end of each day; at the end of the week, I change the points into rewards!”

What are some lessons learned from mentoring other teachers?

“An educator’s experience and expertise should always be validated and respected before working toward changing practice.”


Click Here to Subscribe to Scholastic Teacher Magazine

Photo Credit: Elissa Nadworny/NPR