When I'm not in school, my time is most happily spent with my family. I have two young sons and have been married to my husband since 2000. He is a veterinarian, scientist, and Major in the US Army. We currently live in Maryland. Before this, we lived in Colorado. When we are at home, the Sofflers are in the garden or getting our bikes ready for a family ride on the trail.
We are always ready for life's next adventure.
My drive for STEM originated with my bachelors degree in Environmental Science and Forestry. I attended New York State's state forestry school (SUNY ESF) which despite its small size has enormous resources and influence on the fields of environmental sciences. In small and specialized classes, I was able to take field-based courses which had me out identifying trees, rowing canoes to find beaver, and tracking bears in the Adirondacks. My passion for STEM education is rooted here, in a deep appreciation for nature. Projects that bring children outdoors are fertile ground for transdisciplinary learning, and I work hard to make these a foundation of STEM options for schools and teachers. Nature also includes physical sciences, and the transition from the biological sciences to my first position teaching chemistry was a natural one.
As I developed in my career, I have found that physics, math, engineering, and technology fold in as well, rounding a perspective of our world that is both complex and fascinating. in 2014, I constructed an integration of computer coding into mathematics classes and taught as "flipped" class. With 2 more years of a combination of research, collaborative experiences, reflective practice, and a high level of professional organization, this re-emerged as a school-wide computer coding initiative complete with scope, sequence, assessment, and learning goals involving 21st Century Skills as well as content. Always being an accomplished and self-directed learner, spreading into these new directions has been organic to my professional growth and also exciting to be released from a single lens to which to view the world.
Even after my career progressed solidly into elementary and early childhood education from a secondary background, I continued to pursue content-heavy learning, including doctoral level credits in relevant topics in the chemistry department at Colorado State University. I make staying agile in content a priority through reading, workshops, and sustaining professional relationships with colleagues in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Currently driving my content in professional areas are:
How we teach and what we teach goes hand-in-hand. I am a firm believer in inquiry and project-based learning, looking for authentic and first person ways to support students discovering the world. This educational philosophical perspective requires a great deal of open and fluid study and frequently must balance understanding about how people learn, what needs to be learned, and managing children as people with emerging social understandings.
In order to support students in academic risk-taking and authentic discovery, classroom management and behavior must reflect the same values of safety, security, confidence, and competence. In order to create a classroom that demonstrates these values, I work hard to first create or support meaningful, engaging, developmentally appropriate, and exciting lessons. In other words, my first step is to have a rigorous and engaging unit or lesson plan, and I often work from the Backwards Design process (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).
I follow this with establishing a democratic classroom, opening lines of communication and empowering students to examine social convention and decide its value- we decide together how to solve problems that impact our learning and actions in the classroom. I am powerfully drawn to the work of Alfie Kohn, in particular his book "Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community". Our students are members of our communities; as classroom partners and individuals with a place in our lives beyond the walls of the school. In teaching in a community mindset, students reciprocate with commitment and engagement.