Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel 

On Common Core, technology in the classroom and why her students bounce

Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel was still a bit verklempt. She had just said her summer goodbyes to her students a couple of hours before sitting down with Boise Weekly.

In fact, during our conversation, two of her students, Julie and Kaydence, both 10 years old, bounced back into her classroom--quite literally--to say one more goodbye. Riding hippity hop balls, the girls said they already missed their teacher.

"I'll see you around this summer, kids," said Hoffman-Truxel, a third-grade teacher at McCall's Barbara Morgan Elementary School in McCall.

As she was finishing up her work on end-of-school-year report cards, Hoffman-Truxel, 58, spoke with BW about her students, Common Core State Standards and her recent honors from the White House and Environmental Protection Agency.

You've been teaching for 18 years. Is it still tough for you to say goodbye to your students?

I typically cry, but you have to suck it up. Lots of laughs, lots of hugs. Your kids are always your kids.

I'm presuming that you know the namesake of your school, Barbara Morgan.

Oh my yes. As a matter of fact, this year we grew some basil from seeds that Barbara took into space [aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in August 2007]. We kept the seeds in foil all this time, and this year my class grew the basil hydroponically.

And Barbara knew how hard I was working on getting into the Mickelson Academy, which I'll be attending this summer.

Mickelson? As in Phil Mickelson, the professional golfer?

You got it--Phil and his wife, Amy. It's the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy in New Jersey. I'll be collaborating with teachers from around the United States on new ways to connect kids with science and math. Phil and Amy put it together; they really believe in teachers.

And how big a deal was it to receive a Presidential Innovation Award from the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality?

Only 11 teachers in the country got this honor. They gave me a big check--$2,000--so I can receive more environmental education. And the school got another check for $2,000. My kids and I are a team, so they stood with me when I got the award. I made a certificate for each of them, calling them my "science sleuths."

I must note that you have quite a bit of technology in your classroom. Are these iPads?

Twenty-five iPads, enough for every student.

How much of a difference do they make?

I found out this year what works and what doesn't. It was wonderful for about half. But another half didn't have Wi-Fi access at home.

Are 9- and 10-year-olds pretty adept with the technology?

Are you kidding? They pick it up faster than we do.

How will the Common Core Standards affect you?

To be honest, it's the direction we should have been going in all along. It already feels comfortable to me. Things aren't taught in segments in my classroom. I integrate math, science and writing and, in effect, that's what Common Core does.

But a large part of the public doesn't know enough about it.

Look at it this way. Someone once thought algorithms were great when they thought they had found a faster way to get an answer. Common Core says it's better to discover the actual understanding of math.

I've heard Idaho textbooks need to catch up with Common Core.

Textbooks want to teach you steps and processes. But they don't teach understanding.

I have yet to meet a public school teacher who truly takes the summer off.

Teachers who love their profession are reading, taking classes or investigating new ways to connect with kids. I never give up. It's too important.

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