Mary of the TpT store Teaching With a Mountain View and blog of the same name loves interactive notebooks and task cards. She says, “It’s a great way to provide proof of learning.” She’s also a self-described “Workshop Queen” and mother of twin girls. She’s taught kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade. It must be all that clean mountain air — because somehow she makes it look easy!

1. Mary, it was such a pleasure to get to meet you at our first ever TpT conference (Supercharge Seller Success). What were the highlights from the conference for you?

I could write a novel about the TpT conference! When my local friends ask me about “that conference thing you went to,” it’s hard to convey the amazing energy and sense of community there is among sellers. I reconnected with friends I had met the year before and met dozens of other sellers whom I have only corresponded with over email and Facebook messages. When we meet, it’s like we’ve been friends for years. There are a relatively small number of people who do what we do with regard to creating and selling resources. It is inspiring to be around other people who understand that being a Teacher-Author on TpT has absolutely, 100% changed the course of my entire life!

I mentioned the energy of the conference, but I want to reiterate that feeling for the people who weren’t there, so that teachers can understand how much more TpT is than a place where we sell resources. Imagine Times Square on New Year’s Eve or standing on Main Street U.S.A. at Disney World. It was this feeling of absolute elation to see so many passionate and driven teachers coming together for something that is changing the face of education.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t again mention the feeling of community that abounds at the TpT conference. There is so much hugging, so much laughing, so much admiration, so much sharing. The people of TpT, including Team TpT behind the scenes, are some of the best people I have ever met. My heart swells just thinking about the people of TpT. Truly.

(Editor’s Note: Wow. What wonderful sentiments! Thank you so much, Mary. Just a note that the next TpT Conference will be July 9-10th, 2015 and the registration site should be open in early February.)

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2. You have twin girls — how fun! In what ways are they alike and different? What sorts of things do you like to do with your girls?

It certainly is fun! They are about to turn 3, and we have no shortage of love, laughter, or noise in our house! My “firstborn” (by less than 30 seconds), Annabel, is the more sensitive and attentive of the two. She would love to spend her days tracing letters, coloring, and putting together puzzles. Learning time is her favorite, and she is always asking me what activity we are going to do next. Annie is incredibly agile and athletic, just like her daddy, and totally unlike her mom. Sophia, on the other hand, is my carefree, happy-go-lucky girl. Everyone always says she has a sparkle in her eye — and a lot of people tell us that she looks like she’s trouble! She’s such a sweet and spunky little soul, and she loves playing outside, singing, taking care of her dolls, and being anywhere that I am. Her favorite time of day is at dinner, when she loves rehashing her day with my husband and I. “So, let’s talk about our day!” she always says.

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3. How would your students describe you?

I laughed when I read this, because I wasn’t sure I even wanted to think about the answer! I think they would say I’m very quirky, tell a lot of corny jokes, have a song for everything, and use really big words. These are all things they have told me, and… they are pretty darn accurate.

I once broke into “Part of Your World” when I confiscated yet another toy to go into the desk drawer… “Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?” I believe that we should all learn to laugh at ourselves, and what better way to encourage that than to make yourself look a little silly sometimes?

I also believe that students understand an incredible number of words when given the chance to comprehend them in context, hence the big words. I have received several Scrabble related gifts over the years.

My students also quickly learn that I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to making things “pretty.” I recently had a student tell me that she was turning into a Mini Me when she decorated the border of a notebook activity.

4. What are your three favorite products and why? 

One of my favorite products is my Fluency Reading Task Cards. Two years ago, I was working with a group of 5th graders during an intervention block. We had been working on some page-long fluency passages for several weeks, and my students were still frustrated and not making as much progress as I wanted to see. I knew there had to be a better, more engaging way to work on our fluency. Then it hit me — I use task cards for everything else because they are brief, manageable, and visually appealing to kids… why not for fluency?! I went home that night and made my first set of basic fluency task cards. Then I started thinking about all the fluency skills I could focus on with task cards and just kept creating them. My students absolutely adored using them, and our fluency scores went up almost immediately. I also love making them for the holidays now!

Next, I have to mention my free Soarin’ through Scoot cards. We had just gotten back from a trip to Disney World, where we had loved the ride Soarin’ at Epcot. I loved the way it was so smooth and met every single expectation I had for it. I kept saying I wanted to have a “Soarin’ kind of school year.” So, I created the cards to help teachers teach their kids the rules and expectations of the task card game Scoot. I’ll never forget the day I had my family and some neighborhood friends test out the cards in our living room (since it was still the middle of summer). Within minutes of them beginning to play, I was rolling on the floor laughing, and they were having a great time!

My final favorite product is more of a product line than a specific product. I truly love creating and using my math projects. I usually create them for specific topics in math, but I have also begun creating seasonal math projects, which are a blast to make! I enjoy coming up with different tasks to meet a wide variety of skills, and I love the thought of getting kids excited about even the most mundane math tasks!

5. You mention that differentiation is at the heart of your classroom. What sorts of things do you do to make sure you’re reaching all of your students?

I’m a Workshop Queen. Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, Math Workshop. Workshops for all the subjects! Even though my third grade self thrived on standing at the front of the classroom and teaching my stuffed animals from my real overhead (that overhead will go down in history as one of the best Christmas presents ever), I try to spend as little time in front of an entire class as possible, with Morning Meeting, Read Aloud, and Mini Lessons as the exception. I have never known my students like I do when I separate them into workshops. During that Meet With Teacher time, I learn so much about their individual needs so I can give them what they need, even when they are in other rotations.

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Thanks again Mary, for taking the time to answer our questions so thoroughly and thoughtfully. Happy Birthday to the girls (and you!) — here’s to a fantastic 2015!