Meet the Crew

We are a diverse group of teachers who all came together with the purpose of becoming better at our profession. Allow us to introduce ourselves.

Ms. Valerie Furnas, Texas History
Teaching since Aug '99
I have taught grades 6th-12th in the Texas public school system. For the past 11 years I have been teaching 7th grade Texas history. (Yes, it really is a subject that takes an entire school year.)

I am not afraid to say it I am a bit nerdy.  School is my sport.  I have always enjoyed professional development and signed up for everything the district offered.  I love talking about teaching, reading research about learning, and engaging with teachers about what we do and challenge each other to be better.

I was invited into this professional learning community by a friend, Lori Burge.  She told me about the amazing book they were reading and challenged me to join.  I am happy I did. I look forward to learning, and sharing with you.
Ms. June, Librarian
Teaching since Aug '02

Hi everyone!  I’m  June, the school librarian.  This is my tenth year in education and my fourth year in the library.  In my classroom teacher days, I taught 7th, 8th, and 9th grade Pre-AP English.  I love being the librarian!  I’m one of the few staff members who gets to interact with every student on campus.  I also adore Teen/YA Fiction.  I’m usually reading two or three books at once, and there’s always a stack of more books waiting in the wings.

As a librarian, I have never felt that my job is just about checking out books to students.  (A friend once joked, “Yeah, you have to check them back in too.”)  I am a big believer in using technology effectively in order to find information.  I love research and problem solving!

On a side note, I love using videos/multimedia in the library.  I’m especially a fan of book trailers.  I’ve made a few myself that you can find on YouTube.  My book trailer for the novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman won an inaugural School Library Journal Book Trailer Award.  Check it out!

Mrs. Sue Warriner, 7th Grade Pre-AP and regular English 
Teaching Since August 1998

 Having come to teaching later in life (age 40), I soon discovered that with my dry sense of humor and tendency to be sarcastic, middle school, particularly 7th and 8th grades, was where I belonged.   Although my degree is actually in history; I realized I am a bit of a grammarphile, (with the last name Warriner why wouldn't I be) and English soon became my minor and teaching it my calling in life.  This is currently my 10th year of teaching 7th grade English after having taught 8th grade for four years...all at McKamy.  I love the kids I teach, many of whom I still keep in contact with years after they have left my classroom.  
I don't want to label myself a "technophobe," but being "Gold" in nature (tendency to be uptight, controlling, and not a liker of change) has presented me with many challenges when it comes to incorporating technology into my classroom.  But one thing I will say for myself...I am willing to try.  I applied for several technology grants and have been able to get 11 classroom computers, a smartboard, Alphsmarts, and small wonder cameras for my kiddos to I need to get the lessons created to help incorporate those devices into my classroom in meaningful and constructive ways.

Being a part of this group has been a wonderful experience for me.  I am surrounded  by individuals who are not afraid to go beyond the "box" to  make their classrooms vialble learning environments for our 21st century students.  I look forward to many more opportunities to grow as a educator by being invovled with this supportive group.  

Mrs. Tammy Davidson, U.S. History
Teaching since '01
Hi! I started out teaching 7th grade Texas History. I followed that with a few years of teaching both 7th grade TX history and 8th Grade American History. For the past 6 years I have just been teaching 8th grade and I love it.

History has always been a passion of mine and from a young age I wanted to teach. How awesome is it that I get paid to talk about something that I love all day long?  I have been married for almost 8 years and I have a 9 month old baby girl (as of 1/30/12.) In addition to having history as my passion, she definitely has become my greatest passion.

Being a part of the McKamy ID PLC has really changed my view of what should be happening in the classroom. I have always been a “I’ll let you know what is important” kind of person (and still am.) However, I am starting to see the need for change. Especially in today’s society where kids have so much more available to them. This group has offered so much support and encouragement to step outside the box and take chances and allow the students to teach me a thing or two. I believe we all have room to grow as teachers and improve- just as our students, we should never stop learning.

Elaine Frazier, Data Coach
Teaching since '97

I’ve taught grades 8-12 since 1997.  For the past ten years I've been at the middle school level.  You gotta love middle schoolers. This year I transitioned out of the classroom and into the role of Data Coach. My principal refers to me as the Dean of Instruction. I love working with the teachers and discussing best practice. The not so fun part is my Testing Coordinator role. 

I’m a strong believer in collaboration.  For too long, teachers have been like independent contractors holed up in their classrooms.  In my present job, I am able to coordinate time for teachers to meet and discuss best practice.  The old adage, “there are strength in numbers” truly applies to teachers working together and sharing ideas in Professional Learning Communities.

Our Inter-Disciplinary PLC or ID-PLC meets twice a month before school.  The contributors to this blog are members of this ID-PLC and go above and beyond the normal work day to try to improve their craft.  This blog is an excellent example of their commitment.  I am honored to work with these teachers. 

Mrs. Lori Burge, American History
Teaching since '08

I started my career in education at McKamy teaching U.S. History and instantly knew teaching was my passion. When I tell people that I teach 8th graders, their first reaction is “you poor thing” – but to be honest, I love this age. They come in as children and leave as high-schoolers, and in between, they make choices (along with lots of mistakes) that help shape who they’re going to be. Where else do I have any chance of possibly impacting that?

I started looking for ways to positively change my classroom after my first couple of years. Although I loved teaching, something was off. My students were “getting” the information and doing great on their TAKS but I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted teaching to feel like or look like in my classroom so I started looking for ways to get the information and support I needed to create the classroom I had always wanted. Through PLCs, I’ve been able to work with the best teachers I know and through this process, learn a lot about collaboration, partnering, and best practices in the classroom.
Now I’m admittedly a control freak so this process has been difficult for me. Giving students ownership of their learning and trusting that they can arrive at the right conclusions (with my guidance, of course) is a struggle for me. I’m being forced to step back and become a coach and a guide rather than the story-telling (i.e. lecturing) star-of-the-show, all eyes on me kind of teacher I’ve always been. There are certainly some changes ahead for my classroom and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

Mrs. Mindy Brennan, English
Teaching since '08
Wow!  That’s the word that comes to mind almost every day that I walk into my classroom.  My kids surprise me and wow me continually with their creativity, enthusiasm, intelligence, and 8th grade logic (weird and wacky also come to mind, believe me).  They are why I do what I do.  Yes, I love my subject (8th grade English), writing and reading are hobbies, but coaching young people to understand, communicate and grow in their knowledge of how to navigate their world is my passion. 

For a public school teacher, I am still a newbie (4th year), but in terms of working with people to grow and develop, it’s always been part of my career.  Before choosing to become a middle school teacher, I was a human resources manager in the service and high tech industries until the surprise arrival of my twins changed my direction.  What did not change was my desire to continue to help people resolve problems, understand their strengths and reach their development goals; it just morphed into coaching of students vs. employees.  Making connections to real world skills for the students in my classroom and keeping our learning real is my mission. 

I feel honored and awed to work with such a motivated, talented group of teachers in our PLC.  Every meeting has presented challenging ideas that have changed the way I design learning experiences in my classroom.  That’s all I had hoped for when I joined – to learn and grow, so that I can guide my students to learn and grow in a 21st century classroom.  Awesome!   

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