Kate Toci is widely regarded as one of the most innovative teachers at Imagine Camelback in Phoenix.
Toci’s use of technology in her classroom is almost unparalleled, with the various ways she’s used iPads, laptops, apps and Apple TV to teach online geography lessons, create scanner codes that allow students to check math problems and warn students when they’re getting too noisy.
But she is not merely enamored with the newest apps and gadgets.
For Toci, technology is a tool for tapping into her students’ natural curiosity, and using that inquisitiveness to increase classroom interaction, which will help them grow academically as they prepare for the next grade and beyond.
Toci has taught at the K-8 public charter school for five years, spending most of her time teaching third grade before moving to fifth grade this year.
Her love of technology stems from her own creativity, as well as the freedom it allows when she plans her lessons.
“They’re automatically more engaged,” she said. “It gives you more freedom and it also opens doors for immediate discovery” for the students.
One of Toci’s most popular projects last year was “Flat Stanley,” an online geography project that allowed her students to follow a fictional character that traveled around the world to different countries. The class used Google Earth to track his progress and also interacted with other students around the world that participated in the project.
The character traveled to Norway, Philippines, California and other locales.
The project was eight-year-old Sienna Carrillo’s favorite, especially the photos from other countries and the interaction with different students.
“Normally, people don’t send pictures,” said Carrillo, a fourth-grader who was in Toci’s third grade class last year.
Toci’s impact has not been limited to her students.
She routinely helps fellow teachers integrate technology into their classrooms and models different lessons for teachers.
“Her lessons and engagement strategies stood out. I was always impressed with how much her kids knew,” said Lindsay Popa, curriculum and data coach for Imagine Camelback. “She’s giving them the skills they need to be successful in the world today. Not just academic, but character and self-monitoring skills.”
Toci said she is focused on taking her knowledge of academic standards and matching it to her students’ needs.
And technology helps her accomplish that task.
“A big thing is curiosity and getting them involved in their learning,” she said. “Get them to be curious and be kids.”
This is the fourth in a series of blogs about each of our 2015 charter award winners. Read our posts about the Lifetime Achievement honorees here, our Charter School of the Year here and our Tranformational Leader of the Year here. You can find out more about Imagine Camelback here. Want a behind the scenes look at our 2015 award winners? Click here.