Teacher Spotlight: Gayla Sullivan

1st Grade Teacher


The spotlight is shining bright on Gayla Sullivan, 1st grade teacher, for the integration of Global Outcomes into her classroom. A common sight to see in Mrs. Sullivan's classroom is students talking together about their work, reflecting on it, and peer reviewing each others' products. Mrs. Sullivan takes the time in class to teach students effective communication skills. She uses sentence frames to guide students in providing descriptive feedback for each other. Students express what the classmate did well and they provide ideas, suggestions, and point out errors in each other's work. Mrs. Sullivan uses less direct instruction and guidance about how to be a good communicator as students build their communication skills and independently use the skills and strategies they have been taught.
She makes sure every student is engaged in communicating feedback by putting protocols in place that require the participation of every student. Students collaborate with each other to refine and revise their products. Learning in her classroom is viewed as a continuous growth process. Pictured above, students are collaborating together to produce the best possible piece of writing. They are learning how to add dialog to their writing and are adding speech bubbles into their stories.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Providing peer feedback at this level of rigor in the classroom engages students in a high level of critical thinking. The questioning that Mrs. Sullivan uses daily with her students in the classroom prompts students to think critically and solve problems on their own. When students ask Mrs. Sullivan questions, she often responds with another question that taps into the knowledge they have previously learned in class. By guiding them through their own problem solving process students engage in critical thinking that they would not have engaged in if she had provided the explanation. She also has students direct questions to each other and solve together. In observing a math lesson, a student asked how another student got to an answer. Rather than answering that question, she directed the student to ask his peer. She let the peer explain her reasoning, which prompted more students to ask questions revealing the thinking of more students in the class. By redirecting the question back to the students she was able to address a misconception held my many students and provide a deeper learning experience for all students in the classroom.
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Learning Targets

Something you will always see in Mrs. Sullivan's classroom are learning targets that are clear, written in student-friendly language, and discussed throughout the lesson. Students discuss the learning target together and identify when they have reached it. These clear learning targets allow the students to self-assess and become leaders of their own learning. In addition, Mrs. Sullivan is able to assess where the student is in their progression toward the learning target and determine next steps for supporting each student. She sets up time in her classroom to meet individually with each of her students to address specific misconceptions and learning needs.

Social Emotional Learning

Mrs. Sullivan also writes a social emotional learning target for her classroom and is clear with students about how social emotional wellness is important to their learning. The day's learning target was "I can practice communication by stating how I feel."

Thank you Gayla for the learning opportunities you provide for students in Estes Park!