In this episode of Science Connections: The Podcast, Kentucky Science Teacher of the Year Shad Lacefield sat down with host Eric Cross to discuss ways to create memorable learning experiences for students.
You can access the full episode here, but we’ve pulled out Shad’s top three teacher takeaways for you to use in your classroom today!
1. Go above and beyond for your class.
During remote learning, Shad was having a tough time connecting with students and keeping them engaged virtually, so he started something called “Vader Visits.” Shad would dress up as Darth Vader and show up at students’ houses as an incentive to get them to turn in their work on time and stay interested in what he was teaching in science class at the time. It was a commitment for Shad, as he had to fit that into his teaching (and life) schedule, but he was able to keep his students interested in science class, and learned more about each student he went to visit. The practice was so successful, he extended it beyond remote learning.
“I still try to dress up at least once every week, if not once every other week just to make whatever we’re doing fun.”
2. Get to know your students in creative ways.
As part of his Vader Visits, Shad was able to get students to open up and share more of their interests with him, which helped him build better connections with each student. As a way to connect with students less interested in Star Wars, Shad asked them about their other interests and found new costumes. For some students, he would show up dressed up as Harry Potter. For others, he would dress up as Mario from Mario Brothers.
“I went [on] over 50 visits and it was cool to see kids in their home and talk to them and meet their parents. It was a great opportunity for me to engage with parents as well, [to ask,] ‘how is online learning going? What can I do to support you? Do you have any questions?’”
3. Be open to new ways to reach students.
Shad has creatively expanded his teaching to include outlets that he knows kids are interested in outside of school. He makes TikTok videos. He weaves Minecraft references into his lessons. He uses YouTube. He even creates new characters to keep things fresh. By speaking a “language” that was familiar to students, Shad was able to create more meaningful connections with his students as both learners and people. And it helped him stay positive as an educator.
“I just go back to, ‘why did I do this to begin with?’ And it gets me excited to be like, ‘I did it for the kids, and it’s about the kids.’ I get joy when they’re laughing and smiling.”
For a more in-depth look, listen to the full episode to hear Eric and Shad discussing ways to create memorable learning experiences for students.
Science Connections: The Podcast featuring Kentucky Science Teacher of the Year Shad Lacefield.