At the back of Ms. Supergan’s classroom is a cabinet of “weird things.” From there you can pull a pair of scrubs or a construction helmet or any number of objects or costumes that can help bring a lesson to life. “I’m one of those teachers who prioritizes engagement – however I can get it! You can’t teach without engagement, but before that you have to build relationships.”
Whether it is taking a field trip to the home of Booth Tarkington, camping in the classroom or scheduling zoom meetings with YA authors, Emily Supergan continually goes the extra mile to make sure her students can truly connect with what they’re reading and learning. Her passion and commitment are just one of the reasons she is ReadTheory’s featured teacher for December.
Getting to Know Ms. Supergan
Emily works as a 4th grade high ability teacher at Smoky Road Elementary. Now in her 8th year of teaching, she’s also begun acting as the interim assistant principal as she continues her education. “I love challenging kids. I love pushing back on kids who say they can’t do something. I always tell them ‘Just you wait” and then we work together to achieve what they believed was impossible.” Empowering students is what keeps Emily coming back each day. “When you give students opportunities and finally see that lightbulb come on for them – I get goosebumps every time.”
Remembering What is Most Important
Emily is a second generation teacher and her mother’s work as a preschool teacher deeply inspired and influenced her own path as a teacher. “My mother had a student with leukemia, Luke, who our family really connected with throughout his time in my mother’s class and his illness. Despite everything he was going through, he came to school each day with a smile and was usually wearing his ‘Life is Good’ t-shirt. His attitude and his struggle helped me reframe what a bad day really means.” In the years since, Luke has actually made a full recovery and has come to speak to Emily’s classes. Luke’s message of “Life is Good” can be seen plastered all around Ms. Supergan’s room.
Know What Motivates Your Class
Emily works hard to ensure her students are continually motivated to work harder. For her, this usually means running some kind of competition. “Competitions don’t work for everyone, but when there’s a level playing field and you pitch it with a ton of enthusiasm, I’ve found them to be incredibly effective.” She started with a 40-book challenge for her students – any student who reached that milestone would get a sign to put in their yard. “Pretty soon we had to set a limit of two weeks and get another sign to be donated. Then we made an 80-book sign. Then a 100-book sign.” When presented with a challenge, her students rose to meet it.
With that in mind, Emily started her “ReadTheory Rockstar” competition with her class. At first, it was a simple competition with a progress chart at the front of the room. Students got to ring a bell and move their avatar up each time they reached a new progress level. After just a few weeks, students began questioning what would happen if they made it to the highest level in ReadTheory and Emily told them, “I’ll deliver a ‘ReadTheory Rockstar Lives Here’ sign to your house. Five students ended up getting to host the sign that semester.
Equity in Education
Ms. Supergan has continued her education and training and is working on her Master Degree in Administration. After recently hosting an event on Equity in Indiana schools, Emily has a lot of take-aways. “Equity is people work. You need to continually ensure that the students’ voices are at the forefront of your decision making.” Emily recommends performing an equity audit of your classroom and of your school. “Sit in a chair in your classroom and try to put yourself in the perspective of your students. Do you see yourself on the walls? Are you represented in that room.” Emily is quick to caution that this is not easy or quick work. “The work of equity takes time, but if it is purposeful, then it is definitely work that our students deserve.”
Other Inspiring Voices
Always looking for more inspiration, Emily has a number of education thought-leaders that she is inspired by. Project Lead the Way leader, Vince Bertram is one of the voices she respects on teaching. “I also love The Energy Bus by John Gordon. It’s all about maintaining a positive and inspirational mindset. We did a book study of it at my school and it was really powerful. I follow him on twitter now for my daily does of inspiration.”
Emily, we’re inspired by you! Thank you for all you do and for being ReadTheory’s Featured Teacher for December.