Fall CUE Speaker Showcase: Vanessa Heller

Picture Vanessa Heller

Project based learning has been around for a long time and there’s a reason. It’s effective and amazing! Vanessa Heller is passionate about PBL and infusing inquiry into classroom practice. Come check out her session at Fall CUE.

Mrs. Heller is an educator in her 21st year at Medea Creek Middle School. She is Director of the Oak Park Inquiry Institute, Peer Coach, ELA Dept. Chair, and a member of the Oak Park Unified Tech Innovator team helping colleagues incorporate more technology into their pedagogical practices. She regularly presents on best practices in gifted education and inquiry throughout California. In her spare time, Vanessa is a dance and band mom to two teenage daughters and is never far from a good edu-read or a Twitter chat.

What sessions are you presenting at Fall CUE this year?

Action & Advocacy for Inquiry/PBL and Developing Driving Questions for Inquiry/PBL

What inspired you to put these sessions together?

Inquiry/PBL inspires me as I have found it to be the most authentic way to teach. Inquiry is hands-on, minds-on learning and doing. I am also on a personal campaign to help other educators realize that Inquiry/PBL is for all learners, it is scalable to time and content, and that students don’t have have to make a project…they can make an impact.

Why should someone attend?

You want to attend because you are an educator who expects more from yourself and your students. You want students to ask, to think, and to do. The session on Developing Driving Questions for Inquiry/PBL focuses on how to do just that, create broad yet deep essential questions that encourage kids to go beyond Google or the textbook. My twist is using the GATE Universal Themes and icons of depth and complexity and/or the NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts to develop these driving questions.

You want to attend the session on Action & Advocacy for Inquiry/PBL because you are ready for next level teaching and learning. You want to move content beyond the walls of your classroom to your local community and even go global with inquiry. This session takes curricular inquiry to the action and advocacy phase where students engage in service learning and civic action. The idea here is that students are not creating projects as much as they are creating social change.

What’s your CUE Story?

Becoming a presenter at Fall CUE, SGV CUE, and hopefully at Spring CUE as well, was simply a matter of submitting proposals…giving it a go. I have been presenting on inquiry/PBL and GATE topics at various gifted education conferences such as California Association of the Gifted and Tri County GATE for over five years and at California League of Schools conferences for about two or three years now. I am also a regular and huge fan of EdCamps. I attend whenever I can to teach and be taught and even organized an EdCamp!

To read more about these sessions and the other options for CUE’s incredible two-day conference, check out the schedule. Don’t forget to register for the conference, too! You DO NOT want to miss this year.

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Kristina Allison

Kristina Allison is currently teaching language arts and computer science at the middle school level. She holds a masters in educational technology, teaches as a Lead Learner for CUE and serves as a director on the CapCue board, the Sacramento area affiliate. Kristina is also a proud teacher consultant for the Area 3 Writing Project. Find her at http://figurativelyteaching.com

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