Carole Firestone

Carole Firestone

School: Lindero Canyon Middle
District: Las Virgenes Unified School District
County: Los Angeles County
Region: Southern California
Grade: Elementary School, Middle School
Subject: Language Arts, History
Award Year: 1997

A small classroom alive with creativity, imagination, and enthusiasm of its occupants – this best described my class. On any given day, a visitor might have found students rehearsing for a play, choreographing a dance routine for an upcoming Get Healthy project, practicing a dirge for our dearly departed boring words, or putting the finishing touches on a mythological mask. In between all of this, we might have been involved in a heated discussion on the merits of artificial intelligence, analyzing the grammatical aspects of a sentence, writing furiously, or working in our class garden.

Several years ago I started teaching middle school language arts and social science in the middle of a school year. Previously I had taught elementary school and college. I quickly discovered many of my students were apathetic. I realized I had to make the curriculum relevant and exciting for these students, or I would lose them. It was a challenge at first, but I was determined to motivate these students to love literature, to understand what we learn in language arts we can apply to the arts, to history, to science, to the real world. I had students use their talents in other areas to create projects in language arts. We studied song lyrics that led to a better understanding of poetry. We read stories and dramatized them. We created puppets and put on plays. We wrote endlessly. Suddenly my most disinterested students began participating, frantically raising their hands, smiling, laughing, and even doing their homework, and I loved middle school!

Throughout my teaching career, I challenged my students while establishing a sense of camaraderie within the class. With an interdisciplinary approach, students became collaborative workers, creative problem solvers, thoughtful communicators, and economical managers of time and resources. My students participated in community service activities that often integrated the arts. They learned how important it is to give back to their community. Throughout the year students kept portfolios of their work. Bursting with ideas, they were tangible evidence of what students learned, a broadening of their aesthetic sensitivities, an acuity of perceptual skills, and an enhancement of self expression and communication. My students possessed the internal drive to achieve and derive self-satisfaction from both the learning process and the final product.

As a teacher, I have presented workshops, have been on numerous task forces, and have sat on many outreach boards. I was the English/Language Arts department chair as well as the gifted and talented coordinator at Lindero Canyon Middle School and the English/Language Arts mentor for the Las Virgenes Unified School District. I supervised student teachers and mentored new teachers in the BTSA/Induction Program for both my school district and Ventura County. In 2010 I received the Los Angeles Music Center Bravo Award for innovation and excellence in arts education.

Although retired, I continue to stay involved in education. I consult for the Las Virgenes Unified School District. In this capacity I mentor new teachers, instruct educators on how to teach writing, and work with students on learning to be good writers. It’s wonderful to continue to be involved!