Teacher Feature: Whitney Tippens By Barbara P. JacobyR.M. Moore ES STEM Academy kindergarten teacher Whitney Tippens helps little learners understand big ideas.As part of her school’s recent successful Cognia STEM certification process, Whitney Tippens had the responsibility of creating a classroom steeped in STEM culture with instruction promoting increased student thinking, engagement, and performance.“I embraced my school’s Engineering Design Process (EDP) in everything that I did in the classroom,” the 13-year teacher said of her process. “Students were taught to ask questions and investigate to learn more about a topic. Students of all backgrounds and abilities were shown how to work together to imagine and plan every day. Through creating and experimenting, all students learned to intentionally collaborate with each other and improve ideas as needed.” By using the EDP process, she said, students learned to take ownership of their learning. “Even at a kindergarten level,” Tippens said, “students were taught to respect the unique opinions, ideas, and viewpoints of other students. I cannot fathom a more innovative initiative than one that fosters the growth of a 21st-century mindset in my young learners.” Tippens, whose colleagues selected her as their 2023 Teacher of the Year, felt called early in life to become a teacher.“When I was in school, I was blessed to have many teachers who took the time to genuinely invest in me,” said Tippens, a fifth-generation Cherokee County resident. “They cared about me as a student but invested in me as an individual. I knew from a young age that I wanted to influence children in the same way that my teachers made a lasting impact on me.”A member of her school’s leadership team and its kindergarten team lead teacher, Tippens serves as a mentor teacher and volunteers with the Delta Kappa Gamma women’s education organization.“My greatest hope as a teacher is that my students leave my classroom feeling loved, with a sincere passion for life-long learning,” she said. “Every day, I come to school with a purpose and true excitement, striving to shape my students into the best versions of themselves as individuals and as students. As a kindergarten teacher, I realize the importance of developing the foundation of a school experience for the youngest learners at my school. I know that not all students learn in the same way or at the same pace. It is imperative to find the necessary tools to best engage all students regardless of varying backgrounds and abilities.” What can parents do to help their child be as successful as possible at school? “Parental involvement is a huge part of a child’s school success. I would encourage parents to become active participants in their child’s school experience. Parents must show an interest in what is happening at school and make time to talk with their children about their days. I would also encourage parents to have open communication with their child’s teacher. Teachers and parents are on a team and must work together to support students,” Tippens said.