Doug Lemov, in his book “Teach Like a Champion”, said that a teacher’s high expectations can differentiate a great classroom from a good one. The high expectations for all who enter Chrissy Giraud’s classroom is what sets it apart as a truly great classroom.
Mrs. Giraud is an award-winning AUSL veteran, having worked at Morton School of Excellence for four years before coming to help turn around Marquette School of Excellence in 2012. She is a leader at Marquette, serving as an Anchor Teacher for the Special Education Team, a member of the ILT and the Math Committee, and the head of the RTI Committee. This past spring, Mrs. Giraud was awarded the Madeleine Maraldi Award honoring Excellence in Teaching in AUSL and this year she is sharing her practice as a Mentor Teacher.
In her classroom, Chrissy creates a warm, structured environment that allows all students to showcase their individual strengths, but also consistently work to improve their areas of growth. Her students use academic conversation and discussion stems, are required to explain their thinking when solving math problems, and defend their responses with evidence. Her work on the math committee helped to establish a new approach to teaching math at Marquette- an inquiry based model where students guide their learning through discussion and questioning, at their own pace.
You only have to take one step into her room in order to feel the sense of urgency and attention to detail Mrs. Giraud has put into each moment of learning her students participate in. She is intentional with each instruction, requiring students to use academic vocabulary as she pushes their thinking. She regularly uses video clips to engage her students in the content, and provide a visual and auditory example for her students.
Mrs. Giraud has been working to increase her toolbox of instructional strategies by incorporating more technology into her classroom. After attending the CPS iPad Academy this summer, Mrs. Giraud has already had her students working to complete Google Forms to document collaboration during discussion and to complete do nows and exits tickets on their iPads. Her students also created their own movies using iMovie, based on their qualitative observations in science, and read to themselves on their ipads.
I sat down with Mrs. Giraud to learn more about her path to teaching and what inspires her:
“I started peer tutoring in high school in place of my study hall, in a self-contained classroom. The students had significant disabilities and I realized how much I enjoyed helping my peers who were disabled. I pursued several volunteer opportunities to work with children with disabilities. I was inspired to make a difference and I thought the best way to do that was to be a special education teacher.
My students really inspire me, considering all of the challenges they have, whether it is related to their disability or struggles from their home environments.
I am inspired by the courage they have to keep trying even when things can be more challenging for them than a non-disabled peer. When I see glimpses of improvement in academic and behavior gains it motivates me to continue to push them.
My advice to our TchAUSL community it to remember that every child has the ability to learn and make progress. There is a way to reach every child and there is potential for every child to make progress. In order to do that you have to set small attainable goals that the student can achieve. If you set a goal that isn’t achievable you are setting the student up for failure. Being aware of and monitoring your expectations are important, especially in an urban setting.”