Natalie MacNeill: Model STEM educator embraces students' natural

Year: 2018 – Province: Prince Edward Island

Transcription – Natalie MacNeill-2018 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence

[Black screen fades up to close-up of woman in interview setting, against a mottled background. Music playing.]

[Caption: Natalie MacNeill, Grace Christian School]

Natalie MacNeill: I truly believe that all Canadians’ actions and decisions need to be based on their knowledge of the world around them. We really want to encourage our students to define problems that are relevant to today and seek solutions that will be effective for their future.

[Cut to voice over with still photo of Natalie and several students gathered around a model town, and then back to the interview setting, followed by voice over with still photo of several students, a laptop, small model of the human body and several other learning aids, and then back to the interview setting to conclude.]

Natalie MacNeill: An ideal learning environment for me is one where all needs and learning preferences are accommodated for. It also is a learning environment where students are invited to engage in a collaborative, enquiry-based learning. In my classroom, you will often see students exploring real-world issues. So, for example, our students have recently completed a study of the nervous system and from there they studied what is it like to live with dementia. Following this, they were asked to collaboratively design a product that would allow the individual or the caregiver of someone with dementia to have an effective solution. They continue to amaze me at what they are able to produce as Grade 5 and 6 students.

[Cut to voice over with still photos of a boy and a girl working with a Lego-based robot kit, and of two students with a complete Lego machine in front of laptops, with Natalie in the background, alternating with Natalie speaking in the interview setting.]

Natalie MacNeill: Technology plays an important role in developing the next generation of high-capacity leaders, thinkers and Canadian innovators. In my classroom, we are often combining technologies. Our students from pre-K all the way through Grade 12 at Grace Christian School are learning to code. They are exposed to the basics of computer programming and robotics. I also believe, though, that not only should the students have accessibility to the technology, they should actually become active participants in creating the technology that is changing our future.

[Cut to Natalie making presentation to fellow recipients, standing at a podium in front of a screen.]

Natalie MacNeill: So, for this reason, our students are taught to use technology to organize, analyze, critique, synthesize and communicate information from the young age of 4, as they address real-world challenges and identify possible solutions.

[Cut back to Natalie speaking in the interview setting alternating with voice accompanied by still photo of girl with headphones on speaking into a microphone and a boy with an ear monitor looking at a computer screen in the background.]

Natalie MacNeill: They’re not afraid to turn on a piece of technology or jump into that next big challenge. They just go for it.

[Natalie speaking in interview setting alternates with voice over accompanied by still photos, as follows: smiling boy sitting at desk; and three students standing with a project display.]

Natalie MacNeill: I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to be called into the teaching profession. Our students spend over 16,000 hours in school from Kindergarten through to Grade 12, so we need to feel a sense of obligation to equip our students with the necessary tools and a belief that they truly are equipped to be future visionaries.

[Fade to black.]

[Cut to white screen, with the Government of Canada FIP followed by the Canada Wordmark.]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Natalie MacNeill

Grace Christian School
50 Kirkdale Road
Charlottetown, PE C1E IN6

School telephone: 902-628-1668
School website: www.gcspei.ca
Twitter: @namacneill

Subjects and grades taught: Math, Language, History, grades 5 and 6; Science, all elementary grades

As a self-motivated and enthusiastic educator with a passionate commitment to preparing students for the demands of 21st century global citizenship, Natalie MacNeill continually challenges herself and her students in the pursuit of learning.

Teaching approach

Natalie sees her role as one of empowering her students by capitalizing on their natural curiosity about the world around them. She equips students with necessary tools to ask relevant questions, seek answers, define challenges, and engineer effective solutions.

In the Classroom

  • Introduces technology as a tool for learning: Hour of Code engages students in computer science and coding basics, while Scratch allows students to code their own stories; Lego WeDo and LittleBits give students the chance to develop design and math skills by building 3D models and objects
  • Lets children answer questions that intrigue them: "Genius Hour" research projects see students look into topics such as hurricane preparation and veterinary skills, all because they are interested
  • Provides opportunities for collaborative, project-based learning: Island History project gets students exploring P.E.I.'s past through video and digital storytelling; Dream House involves teams of students in planning, designing and building a home within a budget
  • Instils the importance of service and community involvement: a mini-election had students developing party platforms that addressed issues that matter most to them as young Canadians, designing campaign materials and analyzing poll stats; a unit on dementia saw young learners experience the realities of age-related Alzheimer's disease through a simulation after which they designed and marketed products to address the challenges they identified

Outstanding achievements

  • Students recognized provincially and nationally for their work in STEM subjects; in 2017, Natalie led a four-student team (only one of two representing Canada) to the International Future City Engineering Competition in Washington, D.C. In 2018, she successfully led a second team to the same engineering competition
  • Developed and delivered school's entire elementary-grade science curriculum
  • Recognized as role model for STEM education at her school and across Atlantic Canada
  • Attended Teacher's Institute on Parliamentary Democracy in 2016

Rave reviews

"Mrs. MacNeill uses innovative and creative methods to help kids understand the concepts they need to learn, as well as things that are important outside of the classroom. … She is helping students become the leaders, thinkers and innovators of tomorrow."

Students
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