Ms. Tuttell Goes to Washington
July 25, 2016
‘Everybody thought I was crazy’
Who on earth would want to leave a cushy, lucrative job with a great company to teach kids?
Chris Tuttell, that’s who.
The Washington Magnet Elementary School instructional technology facilitator says she wasn’t fulfilled doing public relations for Disney and Universal studios.
“I was doing international travel, meeting a lot of people, had all kinds of opportunities – but I wasn’t making a difference,” says Tuttell. “I felt like my calling had always been teaching.”
So she said so long to Mickey and the gang, picked up a master’s in elementary education and followed that call. And she has been making a difference in kids’ lives for the past 17 years.
“Everybody thought I was crazy,” says Tuttell, who taught for seven years in Florida before coming to the Wake County Public School System in 2007. “Even though the money wasn’t there, I felt like my bigger purpose was to be a change agent for kids, be there for them and make learning exciting. So I did it. I just took the leap.”
3 Little Pigs and the 4 C's
Tuttell leapt into what she calls the best job she’s ever had, and her students are the beneficiaries. Tuttell employs the 4 C's (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication) into her classroom activities.
Most recently, with, “The Three Little Pigs Go to Hamlet.” That’s Hamlet, the town, as in North Carolina. The students used their creativity to video a puppet show, using iPads and a green screen. Then, they put their math and design skills to use to design a house for the little swine.
The project involved a great deal of communication and collaboration around creating the puppet show and designing the house. See how it happened here:
Expanding her reach
After teaching fourth grade for several years at Holly Grove Elementary, Tuttell got another master’s degree – this time in library science. She moved to Bugg Elementary and worked as the school’s library media coordinator.
Last year, she went to Washington Elementary – with an idea.
“I decided I wanted to impact more than just the kids in my room and wanted to make a difference for larger groups of students and for more educators,” she said.
So Tuttell and her colleagues created the “Innovation Lab” where students from all over Washington Elementary can come to work collaboratively on projects. The Lab also serves as a model for teachers, who have used it to redesign their classroom space to encourage greater interaction and freedom to move among students.
“We’re a learning lab for both the teachers and the students. It’s a place for them to try out some things in an environment where I’m here to support them,” she said.
Getting students in on the 4 C’s act
Now, the former WCPSS Teacher of the Year finalist is working with a team on a new project funded by a 4 C’s grant, given to 20 schools across the district for modeling 4 C’s work in the classroom.
Tuttell and her team will lead an effort among students to design an entire school around the 4 C’s concept. The students will work with WCPSS facilities professionals, meet with architects, and tour some of the district’s newest school facilities.
The students will use technology, learn about building materials and best use of space. And they will document the entire project.
Tuttell stresses the importance of embedding important skills and giving students opportunities to practice these skills in a way that not only helps them to learn but to be the captains of their own learning.
“It’s definitely ignited a spark of innovation for us and for our kids, and it’s leading to more student-driven ideas and instruction,” said Tuttell. “The ultimate goal is to walk with them on this journey of discovery and give them the choices and skills that make them feel empowered to take charge of their learning.”
About Ms. Tuttell's Lab
Chris Tuttell is Washington Elementary School's instructional technology facilitator. Her job: to provide teachers not only with technology to help students learn better, but also with creative ways to increase students' abilities to collaborate and communicate with each other.
She and her team have created the Innovation Lab at Washington. It's a learning center for both students and teachers. When students enter the Innovation Lab, they cross a threshold into a world where they can move freely, work with the latest in technology and solve problems.
The Lab also serves as a fountain of creativity for teachers. They come to observe how their students are learning, then are encouraged to recreate the experience in their own classrooms.
This "super combo" of student learning and professional learning is one of many exciting things going on in the Wake County Public School System to ensure better learning and teaching.