PEPPERELL -- As the school year starts, Kristen O'Connor, a second-grade math teacher at Varnum Brook Elementary, has a lot on her plate.
O'Connor, who has been teaching for eight years, was selected as one of 95 teachers nationwide to participate in the National Education Association and lesson planning website Better Lesson's Master Teacher Program. As a Master Teacher, she will contribute lesson plans that teachers across the country will be able to use in introducing the national Common Core standards into their classrooms.
"As a teacher, you're constantly looking for more resources to make yourself better and invigorate your students. This is one more resource to make us better," O'Connor said.
The Common Core, a national program aimed at ensuring that students all across the country are held to the same educational standards, is gradually being adopted nationwide, and the Master Teacher Program aims to help make that transition easier for teachers.
As a member of the program, O'Connor will be required to submit one lesson plan for every day of the year. All of the lesson plans will lend themselves to the Common Core curriculum, and all will have to utilize video in some way.
O'Connor said her focus on using technology in the classroom, as well as her interest in the curriculum aspect of education, helped her in the interview process.
"I've always been really excited about the curriculum piece, and l love to teach. I think that passion is one of those things that people really understand," she said.
At Varnum Brook, all classrooms are equipped with SmartBoards, which O'Connor said are an important teaching tool to engage young audiences.
"It's a way of invigorating the kids and getting them really excited about learning," she said.
While O'Connor said her students remain her top priority, she will be committing many hours to developing the lesson plans, which will be submitted in intervals over the next year. However, she said many of the lessons that she will be incorporating are things she has refined in her classroom over the past few years.
"I'm extremely organized, and I think that has helped me to get to the point where things will run smoothly," she said.
Although she struggled with math as a child, O'Connor said that has only helped to grow her passion for the subject.
"For that reason, I'm able to see it through a struggling child's eyes, and that makes me want to teach it in a way that makes sense," she said.
Varnum Brook Principal Pauline Cormier said she has always appreciated and encouraged O'Connor's commitment to learning about the curriculum.
O'Connor has often gone to curriculum seminars to then spread that knowledge within the school, Cormier said.
"This is one more way of letting the experts, who are our teachers, teach each other," Cormier said.
"We're very proud of her. She represents the way that we try to utilize our teachers and draw from their strongest skills. Kristen has a lot of strongest skills," she said.
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