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Penn-Trafford teachers flock to Pinterest to share inspiration, resources

| Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, 8:48 p.m.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Amy Damaska, second-grade teacher at Level Green Elementary, works with Owen Demeri, Brianna Elias and Gabe Shafer in the Spelling Center, which was inspired by an item she saw 'pinned' on Pinterest. The Spelling Center consists of bottle caps with foam letters and laminated cards with spelling words. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Amy Damaska, second-grade teacher at Level Green Elementary, shows Gabe Shafer how to use a bulletin-board version of Boogle,which was inspired by an item she saw 'pinned' on Pinterest. The class is just learning how to use it. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Owen Demeri and Brianna Elias are learning to tell time with the visual cues on the wall clock in Amy Damaska's second grade classroom at Level Green Elementary. Damaska is excited about the many projects that she has been able to bring to the classroom this year by using Pinterest. The Spelling Center, Clock and Boogle game are just a few. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Amy Damaska, second-grade teacher at Level Green Elementary, works with Owen Demeri, Brianna Elias and Gabe Shafer in the Spelling Center, which was inspired by an item she saw 'pinned' on Pinterest. The Spelling Center consists of bottle caps with foam letters and laminated cards with spelling words. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star.

Though social media websites can — and do — distract a lot of people from their jobs, teachers in the Penn-Trafford School District have found that one site is helping them improve the classroom experience for students.

Several P-T teachers credit Pinterest with providing classroom inspiration that they otherwise never would have found. The site invites users to create virtual pinboards and to “pin” images of objects or ideas onto the boards. Other Pinterest users can browse the virtual pinboards and, if they want, repin content to their own boards.

“There are so many things to like about Pinterest,” says Amy Damaska, a second-grade teacher at Level Green Elementary. “The thought of being able to share ideas and products with people all over the world is just awesome.”

Recently, Damaska was looking for paper that students could use to practice hand writing. By searching through Pinterest, she was able to find another site which offered exactly what she wanted. She was able to print out the materials right from the site.

“It just opens up a whole new world where you can access so many different things and ideas,” she said.

Angie Mastroianni, who teaches first grade at Harrison Park Elementary, said her favorite part of using Pinterest is being able to see the posts of friends and fellow teachers. She said many teachers in the district are connected by Pinterest and that the website has made it easier to share resources and ideas.

“I would normally be searching for ideas on my own, but I can ‘steal' ideas from them, so I'm not always reinventing the wheel,” she said. “It saves time, and you can add your own creativity to the idea you have found and make it your own in the end.”

Without Pinterest, she said, there is no way she would have found some of the ideas she is currently using, be they for games, bulletin boards or silly songs.

Parents in the district, she noted, also use Pinterest to find ideas for school pictures, healthy lunches, summer activities and teacher gifts.

Brenda Christeleit, an elementary and high school art teacher at Penn-Trafford, says she's “seriously addicted” to the 2-year-old social media website.

“It took me a little while to figure it out, but it's changed the way that I maintain resources,” she said.

Christeleit said she is considering of scanning materials that are in her filing cabinet and uploading their images into Pinterest in an effort to cut down on clutter. That's another benefit of using Pinterest, she notes — its portability. Having the items on her virtual pinboard, Christeleit said, would enable her to have those ideas at her fingertips as she travels through the district to teach art classes.

Finding new ideas for classroom posters, vocabulary games and organizational tips are just a few of the ways that “Pin-spiration” has helped Diana Hlava, a first-grade teacher at Level Green Elementary. She said she doesn't think she could have found the ideas she's taken from Pinterest any other way.

“I like that there are many teachers around the county that have great ideas. Those teachers post things that have been successful in their classroom,” she said. “I love getting new ideas. It is fresh for me and fun for the kids. I'm pinning ideas all the time.”

She has found ideas for games as well as creative ways to teach vocabulary, like putting words onto bubble wrap and letting students pop the bubble wrap when they read a word.

And fun activities like that are easily taken home. With an exercise like the bubble wrap, “it would be a lot easier to get the kids to practice their words than do flash cards over and over again,” she said.

Hlava anticipates that use of Pinterest will only continue to grow.

“I am always looking for new ideas that will interest the kids and keep them excited,” she said. “This website helps me do that.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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