Westside teacher earns statewide honor

Posted 8/8/19

As educators focus on lessons in STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math — a Powell teacher is helping lead the way in Wyoming.

Shelby Randall was named the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Westside teacher earns statewide honor


As educators focus on lessons in STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math — a Powell teacher is helping lead the way in Wyoming.

Shelby Randall was named the state’s STEAM Elementary Educator of the Year during a conference in Laramie last week. Randall teaches first grade at Westside Elementary School and leads a “Genius Hour” program focusing on coding/robotics.

“I believe that coding and computational science are going to be incredibly critical for students to have as skills going into the workforce or for them to continue their learning in college,” Randall said.

During Genius Hour, Westside first-grade teachers delve into different subjects with students — Randall teaches coding, Krista Granum teaches art and Donna Cole teaches science.

“The Genius Hour allows students to choose an area of interest and spend time each week learning more about the topic,” Randall said, adding, “Allowing students to have a say in what they want to learn is very empowering …”

To begin, she uses hopscotch tiles to teach movements as code. Randall offers hands-on building with marble runs, LEGO kits and Ozobots. By the final project, students use WeDo2.0 robotics kits to build race cars and rovers.

First-graders benefit from the coding/robotics lessons in many ways, Randall said.

“They learn new vocabulary, they work in small collaborative groups to complete projects, and they show perseverance in working through glitches in their code and models to ensure that they are able to complete the required task,” she said.

Randall said it is incredible to watch the students grow and inquire.

Westside first-grade teachers started Genius Hour three years ago.

“One of the biggest advantages at our age group is the exposure students receive in these different areas,” she said.

As Randall teaches coding/robotics, Granum focuses on famous artists and allows students to work with different types of art materials, while Cole leads students in a variety of science experiments.

As students choose the area they’re most excited about, “this allows us to capitalize on what students are interested in learning about while still making sure we are teaching all of the reading and math standards that we are mandated to complete each year,” Randall said.

To further her own learning, Randall attended a two-week training last year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie that focused on robotics, applied mathematics, physics and engineering design. She said the training allowed her to gain further perspective into the importance of computer science and computational thinking in the elementary classroom.

Innovative STEAM educators “are critical to our success as a state,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a news release last week.

“Whether students are bound for college, military or straight into a career, science and technology will play a larger role in their lives. This year’s recipients are a testament to the field — they are the best of the best,” Balow said.

The Wyoming Department of Education recognizes exemplary STEAM educators from elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels of education.

Randall is beginning her 12th year of teaching. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, she spent four years teaching in Rock Springs before moving to Powell.

She said she considers herself “extremely lucky” to work in Park County School District No. 1.

“They believe in the power of technology and support this belief through funding various projects,” Randall said. She added that the Parent Teacher Council at Westside has also provided ample funding for the Genius Hour projects in first grade.