Teachers Spotlight: Chinaron Vilayvong

We love each one our teachers. They are amazing. They give love, attention and acceptance to all of their students.  More importantly, they see the potential in every child and sacrifice their needs for the needs of their students.  

“At Second Home Child Development Center and Macomb Montessori Academy, we are lucky to have incredible teachers like Ms. China who pour their heart and soul every single day for the development of our kids,” Cheryl Paull, Principal of MMA, said. “She is such a postiive addition to Macomb Montessori Academy and we are grateful for her.”

What was the deciding factor in choosing to teach at MMA? 

MMA feels like home to me. I absolutely love this place! Ms. Cheryl is a wonderful principal. The time, effort and love she puts into this school is remarkable. My colleagues are more than just coworkers to me, they are my additional family members. 

And, I can’t leave out the amazing students. They come to school every day focused and ready to learn. Students love that MMA encourages them to explore their creativity, work independently, and collaborate with their peers. I love that I can use a variety of strategies that will accommodate students’ varied learning styles. 

How do you build a family-like atmosphere in your classroom? 

I believe students will feel comfortable when they know they are in a safe space. In my classroom, we have a morning meeting daily. I think this plays a huge role in encouraging a family-like atmosphere. During our morning meetings, students learn social skills such as respect, cooperation and trust. Once the trust is there, students feel comfortable coming to me when they need help or turning to each for assistance. When students trust each other, then conflict becomes minimal. If a conflict does arise, I turn to mediation. I feel this is necessary because students need to learn how to be assertive and solve their problems. Just like a family, there are disagreements, but working through those problems helps them learn how to address and deal with them easier. As their teacher, I want them to realize that I will always stand behind them, but they need to acquire these life skills to be successful. So, teachers wear many hats. We just don’t teach academics; we also teach them the social skills that will help them in the real world.

Lastly, I provide an opportunity for students to make choices and express how they feel. I think this makes a huge difference in community building. I have always expressed to my students that classroom 103 does not belong to me, but the classroom belongs to us (myself + my students). This gives them an opportunity to feel a part of our classroom community.

What’s your secret ingredient in your classroom? What techniques do you use that students really gravitate toward?

My secret ingredient is relationship building with my students. It is very important to me that I understand who my students are. I like to know their interests and dislikes are. I want my students to know that they are important, and I am invested in them. When this takes place, productive learning can take place. Also, I use their interests to activate background knowledge or student engagement. 

My students tell me daily that I am a cool teacher! For instance, all of my students love researching animals. After they learned about adaptations, habitats and ecosystems, they had to create their own creature. We created our own classroom animal, Kokomododragons. This is a new and improved version of the dragon species. They were extremely excited to create their own animals. The end result of their finished project was amazing to see! 

Some students explored their creative side and created a whole new habitat. For example, one student created a Doritos dragon. When he ate cool ranch Doritos he turned blue and sprayed icicles, freezing everything in sight. When he ate spicy nacho Doritos he turned red. He could decimate his enemies by breathing out fire. This Dorito dragon lived on Doritos island.  This assignment brought on a new level of excitement into the classroom. I chose this activity because it not only aligned with their grade standards but they absolutely loved researching and creating their own animals. When students are offered choices, it allows them to tap into their abilities, which leads to great things.

How do you keep students engaged? 

To engage students, I draw on my students’ interests. For example, a lot of my students are visual learners and they love listening to music. When I introduce a new concept, I like to create anchor charts, play music videos (i.e. NumberRock or Flocabulary), play games or incorporate a book or video that they can make a connection with. My students especially love the NumberRock or Flocabulary songs. Aside from singing the catchy hooks, it really helps them to grasp math or ELA concepts. Their favorite part of the day is Center Time. Each station has a different activity that they have already learned in the classroom. The activity helps reinforce what they have learned. For example, Chutes and Ladder version of fractions on a number line game or a Division Board Game. Another station is Sight word Uno or Sight Word Jenga. This is the highlight of the students’ day!

In what ways are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom? 

As a teacher, I am creative and innovative by incorporating students’ interest into my teaching instructions. Sometimes this means taking a well-known game and putting a twist on it. For example, using checkers for students to practice their multiplication facts or using Legos to teach fractions. A lot of my students appreciate me turning our lessons into games. They still complete worksheets and write papers, but I use their interests to tap into their student engagement.

Also, I love incorporating games, project-based activities, and technology into my teaching instructions. For example, during black history month, students had to research an influential individual. Then, they had to create a diorama and participate in the wax museum. This was our first research project, but they were thrilled to conduct their research. I think giving students choices to create their own projects promotes student engagement. It was amazing to see how creative they can be. Some students prefer to write short stories, poems, or create PowerPoint slides (which they love doing), etc. I offer these choices because my students’ faces light up and it sparks their intrinsic motivation.  

Additionally, it is also important to me that I help them to make the connections of what they learned in school to their real world. For example, when my students had to practice their addition and multiplication facts, they collaborated in groups to design their own zoo. This assignment called for students to handpick their own animals, use math to stay within their budget, create advertisement flyers, perfect their writing/spelling skills, and utilize area and perimeter to build their buildings. A lot of times, students are not invested in their learning when they don’t think it pertains to their everyday life, so it is important to me that I help them to understand the significance of school and why it is necessary to acquire these certain skills.

How would a student best describe you? 

FUN and LOVING. When I first received this email, I was very excited to be considered for the teacher spotlight. My students picked up the excitement and asked me to share the good news. They literally answered all the questions for me. For this particular question, they use this exact verbiage, “They enjoy being in my class because of the center-based activities, lessons presented to them pique their interests, group collaboration projects, and the incorporated technology”. Moreover, we have a strong relationship. My students know that I care about them and I know they genuinely care about me. With this recipe, it equates to mutual respect, love, and productive learning. I have a great bunch of kids. As a first-year teacher, I am extremely lucky. The teacher God has blessed me!

What would your colleagues say about you?

One of the many things I love about MMA is that everyone is very supportive, and we are very passionate about our jobs. I love being a teacher and my colleagues always say that they can see that passion when I am in front of the classroom teaching or when I am working with my students. When I walk into room 103 every day, I am in “that zone.” I have transported into a different world, and the only thing that exists in that exact moment is myself and my 25 students. I get lost into the daily lesson plans and my students. My coworkers have confessed that they walk past my room and I’m just so wrapped up into teaching.

It is not until later conversations; do I discover that they were listening to our lesson. If they didn’t tell me, I would have never known. This is how I invested I am in my students. Nothing else exists but them.