Get to know a CBE

Formative Assessment with CBE of the Month Nikki Vradenburg

Posted by Jessica Millstone on

Please welcome December’s Certified BrainPOP Educator of the Month Nikki Vradenburg!  A true BrainPOP power user, Nikki has helped us test and refine our features through feedback from her K-1 and 4-5th grade students.  We are excited to share Nikki’s experience and stories from her Montana classroom with you all!  

What grade(s) do you teach? Subject area?
This is my first year teaching 4th and 5th grade at my school. I spent 12 years teaching the K-1 class.

How long have you been teaching?
This is my 16th year in the classroom

What inspired you to go into education?
I wanted to be a teacher from the day I entered school. I would watch my teachers in the front of the room and imagine how I would do it when it was my turn. At first I think it was about the access to school supplies such as the stapler, the tape dispenser and writing on the chalkboard. Later, I started “playing school” with my brother at home. I made him sit at a small plastic desk while I taught him his letters and numbers on our Sesame Street chalk board. When he misbehaved I wrote his name on the chalkboard. At the end of our session, I wrote a note to our mother complaining about his poor behavior. Needless to say, my brother did not share my passion for “playing school.” Now that I am a “real” teacher with my own stapler and tape dispenser, I look back on those early years and smile. The things I love about my job remain the same. Nothing quite compares to the excitement of the new school year and the smell of newly sharpened pencils. I feel the most “at home” when I am surrounded by a group of young children reading, writing and thinking.

Which CBE class were you a part of? What do you like about being a CBE?
I was a part of the 2015 online CBE course last fall. I am proud to be a CBE because it means I am part of a community of dedicated and talented learners who get as big of a kick out of Moby as I do. The best part of being in the CBE community for me has been all the amazing connections I have made with some of the most talented educators in our field.

What is one of the most memorable projects you’ve done with your class using BrainPOP resources?
I have been using BrainPOP resources since my very first year in the classroom in 2001. It has been amazing to see the website grow and change alongside my own teaching. My favorite use of BrainPOP resources has always been to use the site at a variety of learning centers. A group of students might work at one table watching movies and taking quizzes together while another group plays games on Game Up at the Promethean board. Other students might work alone or with partners to complete a printed activity from BrainPOP while another group is creating concept maps with Make A Map. I circulate the room keeping track of student conversations and asking questions. Each activity gives my students the opportunity to work with content in a different way. I can assess their learning as I observe their work at each center. Students love learning this way and it is always a relief to me to know they are using quality resources to learn.

How has BrainPOP impacted a specific student (or group of students) ?
BrainPOP has been a big part of both my classroom and my home life. My daughter began watching movies on BrainPOP Jr. the summer before she started Kindergarten. One day she announced that Cynthia Rylant was her “favorite author” and asked that we go to the library to find her books. She spent most of the summer studying those books and watching that video until she could quote it.  She also began writing her own stories. Her goal was to become a “famous author like Cynthia Rylant” in hopes that one day BrainPOP would make a video about her life. Now that she is a first grader she has moved on from her admiration of Cynthia Rylant and found other authors. She has a list of authors she hopes BrainPOP will create videos about. R.L. Stine is at the top of this list right now!

How has becoming a CBE impacted you?
Since becoming a CBE I have had some unique professional opportunities for which I am so grateful. Among them was the chance to attend the ISTE conference in Denver, CO last summer to work in the BrainPOP booth and present my teaching strategies to an audience of over 100 other teachers. I got to meet so many members of the amazing BrainPOP team as well as some incredible fellow CBEs who I am honored to now call friends.  It was by far one of the best professional experiences I have had in my career.  

What are you most passionate about when it comes to education, technology, and your approaches to teaching?
Student choice is incredibly important to me. My students choose what they read, what they write and even where they sit. I grew up in classrooms in the 1980’s where very few choices were given. Despite my admiration for my teachers I still remember being bored and uncomfortable for most of my school days as I sat in hard chairs and filled out dittos (worksheets). It is so important to me that the students see our classroom as a learning community where we are all teachers and we are all learners. This is why BrainPOP has always fit so nicely into my teaching practice. Students can use multiple tools to learn the same content. While some may choose to watch a video over and over others might play a game with a classmate. All students are learning in a way that suits them. It is such an exciting time to be a teacher!

What’s on your BrainPOP wish list?
As a proud Montana girl I would love to see new movies and BrainPOP tools about some of the amazing features our state has to offer such as Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, native animal species such as wolves, and recreational activities such as skiing, backpacking and mountain climbing.