MAT Blog

MAT Alums: Participate in a Focus Group and Earn a $25 Gift Card!

Posted by Dreu Adams on Nov 4, 2011 4:45:00 PM

describe the image
Can we talk? Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) program is looking for alumni and current students willing to participate in a focus group session this week in your area. Participants will receive a $25 gift card for their time.

The purpose of these Focus Groups is to help us continue to improve and enhance student experiences at Marygrove College. Focus groups will be conducted during the next week in Atlantic City at the NJEA Convention, and in Columbus, OH.

Please join us at one of the locations below. Light refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you and appreciate your valuable input!


Saturday, Nov. 12
Brio Tuscan Grille
1500 Polaris Parkway
Columbus, Ohio
Time: 1:30-3 p.m.

New Jersey/NJEA Convention:

Thursday, Nov. 10
Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel
States Boardroom
2 Convention Blvd. Atlantic City, NJ
Time: 5-6 p.m.
(Please stop by the Marygrove MAT booth #834 for a pass to the event)

If you-- or a colleague of yours-- is a working teacher who is considering an online Master in the Art of Teaching degree, please contact Marygrove MAT at 855-MATMARYGROVE today!

describe the image

Tags: Alumni

Start the year on a positive note with “bucket-fillers.”

Posted by Dreu Adams on Sep 6, 2011 11:09:00 AM

At my school, teachers stand outside of their classroom doors each morning to greet each student as they enter. It is something I enjoy doing and my kids look forward to greeting me, too… but during my first year of teaching, I stood at that door every day and greeted every student with a smile. To some, I would just say, "Good morning!" in my best cheery voice and to others I would ask, "How's your morning going?" But most of my students would walk right by me, never acknowledging me or greeting me in return.

This went on for a few weeks; each morning starting out with me feeling down because my students wouldn't greet me! And then I realized it... they didn't know that the polite thing to do is to return a greeting! I spent time teaching them how to be polite to me in the mornings. I even lined them all up in the hallway and had them practice entering the classroom and responding to my morning greeting. Ever since then, practicing greeting the teacher is a regular "first day" routine in my classroom.

That was a true light bulb moment for me: realizing that children just do not innately know how to be, not only polite, but respectful, kind, and thoughtful to others. I was so excited when I came across the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud and knew that so-called "bucket fillers" were the perfect way to introduce expectations of respect and kindness at the beginning of the year. Not to mention a great way to sustain those positive feelings throughout the year.

If you are not familiar with "bucket filling," the idea is that we all carry an invisible bucket with us, and others can fill our bucket when they do or say kind things- or dip from our bucket when actions are less than kind. We also have the power to fill and dip from the buckets of others- and ourselves too!

bucketfiller bainbridge 179x300Kids sometimes struggle to recognize when someone has done something kind for them, so bucket filling not only entails teaching students how to be kind to others, but also how to know and respond when someone has done something kind for them!

In my classroom each student has a "bucket" into which others can put a little bucket filler card. They can do this during recess or at the end of the day. Every Friday, we check out buckets and students give a hug, high-five, or thank you to anyone who has taken the time to fill their bucket during the course of the week. This is a very positive time full of smiles and good feelings in my classroom.

Though I usually try and make sure everyone has something in their bucket, sometimes students do end up with an empty bucket. This is a good time for me to pull them off to the side and ask them to remember if they tried to fill anyone's bucket with kind words or actions during the week. Together, we think of ways they could make an effort to be kind the following week.

My students love doing "bucket fillers." It makes them feel good to know that they have done something nice for someone else and, doing nice things for others is a quick and easy way for my students to fill their own buckets in the process!

Christina BainbridgeChristina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike. Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at


Click me

Tags: classroom management, Christina Bainbridge, Alumni, Bucket Fillers

An MAT could be good for your marriage!

Posted by Dreu Adams on Aug 2, 2011 4:30:00 AM

Earning an online Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) degree with Marygrove College is an investment in yourself. But our non-traditional students with families know that it can mean so much more.

Cathy Hinkle (MAT ’11) of Louisville, Ohio decided to go back to school after thirty years to earn her MAT, with the encouragement of her husband Larry. Cathy was Larry’s support when he attended school for his Doctorate in Ministry when their children were small, so he felt it was the least he could do to support his wife in her career goals now. With two of their daughters in college, they knew it would not be easy financially. But Pastor Larry had faith that the benefits would outweigh it all.

Higher education can be a temporary strain on the family pocketbook, not to mention a significant commitment of time and energy. It helps if spouses can support the effort by making meals, driving kids to their activities or just making sure the MAT student has a quiet place to work.

A comprehensive study on spousal support (Lawrence, Univ. of Iowa, 2007) found that when husbands support their wives in tough times—they report higher levels of marital satisfaction. Wives also report higher levels of marital satisfaction when their husbands support them in the way they need to be supported. So, husbands…ask your MAT student wives what you can do for them in this busy time. It could make your marriage stronger!

Reasons to Earn Your MAT Degree at Marygrove:

•Job security
•Build your professional network
•Build your knowledge base in your content area
•Work online at your own pace
•Become a lifelong learner
•Keep abreast of the many changes in education
•Discover the Master Teacher in yourself
Enjoy a better relationship with your spouse. And so much more!


Tags: Success, Spousal Support, Alumni

How Morning Meetings Build Community in the Classroom

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 16, 2011 5:30:00 AM


Marygrove MAT Morning Meetings 167x250Our second grade class conducts a daily "Morning Meeting” to develop social skills and establish an overall classroom community. This is a time when we come together to learn, celebrate our classroom family, and cheer one another on during learning activities. For consistency, it is important that our Morning Meetings follow the same format each day. Providing a predictable routine is one of the best ways to develop a feeling of safety for students in the beginning of the year.

We begin by gathering on our rug and sitting in a circle. We choose a greeting from a collection of cards and each student greets the person next to them (or whatever the greeting requires). These greetings can be anything from saying “Good Day!” in five different languages, to saying “Good Morning” in the form of a “knock-knock” joke. To make remembering the steps to greetings easier, I compiled them into a set of greeting cards that I laminated, hole-punched, and put on a ring. I keep this handy with our easel and other meeting materials.

In the beginning of the year, we spend time doing a "regular" handshake greeting. Students learn how to look the person they are speaking to in the eye, speak clearly, and give a firm handshake. They also learn how to politely ask a person's name if they have forgotten. After students are comfortable with the "regular" greeting, we move on to other fun greetings as mentioned above. Some of our greetings can be pretty silly, and my students can hardly wait to see what they will be doing each day!

After the greeting, we participate in a quick activity. I also keep a ring of activity cards that stay with our materials for easy access. Our morning activity usually reviews a grammar or math skill we are learning. Trivia, Mad Libs, comprehension activities and task cards are other things we might do on a given day. The key is to keep the activity brief; it should take no longer than five minutes. This is a great opportunity for students to laugh with one another in a non-threatening way.

Once the activity is completed, I move from being a part of the circle to a chair so that I can facilitate our shared writing during our "Morning Meeting Message." This is an interactive writing where we write together about our day or school events. Students share writing responsibilities and they also come up and lead us in reading the message, using a pointer. (My students really have fun with this!)

During shared writing, I always incorporate the grammar skill that our reading series is focusing on for the week. We end with a read-aloud of a picture book that focuses on whichever writing trait we are studying. This leads naturally into writing, as students leave the circle to practice the skill we have just talked about during our grammar review and author's craft.

This is one of my favorite times of the day and my students love it, too. It is a great way to build community and work together as a group. Overall, use your judgment about how long your meetings should run. Generally, I have found that for lower elementary, 15 to 20 minutes works very well.

Below are some of the books that can help you establish a great Morning Meeting; I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Professional Books:

Christina Bainbridge100x150Christina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike.

“I loved my MAT experience at Marygrove because I was able to work at my own pace and apply practical knowledge into my classroom on a daily basis.” Bainbridge said. “It really helped me focus in on my reading instruction, particularly in the area of explicit teaching of comprehension skills. I would recommend the MAT program at Marygrove to anyone who is ready to critically examine their teaching practices and increase their effectiveness as an educator.” Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at

Tags: Building Vocabulary, writing strategies, Classroom Community, Christina Bainbridge, Alumni

Students with ants in the pants?

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 14, 2011 5:00:00 AM

How to deal with fidgety students in the classroom.

MAT Brain BreaksThird Grade Special Education Teacher Melissa Fettrow (Marygrove MAT ’11) finds the following blog link very helpful in dealing with fidgety students:

“In my busy resource room, I’ve observed that it’s good to have students engage in a physical activity right before a standardized test, to get the blood flowing and energy up,” Fettrow says. “We also have a lot of sensory objects available that I pass out to students before tests and assessments. They work well to soothe students after tough tests, too.”

These kinesthetic tips work great for every student, of every cognition and age…after all, who hasn’t had a fidgety moment or two in the classroom?

Energizing Brain Breaks recommends that teachers give their students the opportunity to do something with their hands even during test-taking, so you can bet that classroom manipulatives are a big help to teachers before, during and after testing:

Fidgety students love to keep themselves moving. We can relieve this tension for them by giving them something to work with in their hands while they take the test at their seat. Here are some examples.
a. Pipe cleaners (Get them at the Dollar store)
b. Koosh® or NERF balls
c. Rubber hand strengtheners
d. Kneadable erasers
e. Silly Putty
f. Paper clips
g. Rubber bands

Find more tips and tools at

Tags: Special Education, Alumni, Responsive Teaching

Master Teacher found MAT class helpful for Special Student Populations

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 12, 2011 9:39:00 AM

MAT online courses special education 300x176“Special education students have different strengths and gifts that are not necessarily the ones our society accepts,” says Melissa Fettrow, recent Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) graduate. “I love Special Education, because you may work with a child who is unusually talented in music or art− or an extremely sensitive or perceptive child− qualities you can’t typically put on a grade card.”

It is that diversity of talent and ability that attracts teachers to Special Education. And the best teachers are the ones who appreciate uniqueness, and who can draw upon a child’s individual strengths. Fettrow found the Marygrove MAT EDU 622 course Meeting the Needs of all Students invaluable in sharpening her skills with special populations.

“You might think it sounds like common sense, but learning how to teach responsively is a skill that must be practiced.” Fettrow adds. “This course helped me realize my teaching strengths and how to improve on my weaknesses– I am so much more effective after taking that class. I have always been a patient teacher, but this course helped me learn how to really listen to my students and get the most out of them.”

She found the information on time management very helpful. “Teachers who are effective time managers, especially in Special Education, are able to carry out clear and focused lesson plans,” Fettrow says. “Everything we do in the resource room is in 15-20 minute increments—that way, when I shift gears, my students are still engaged and have not ‘tuned out’ yet. You want to change activities before they get bored, since it is much harder to redirect a bored child.”

Fettrow uses her i-Pod alarm to get students accustomed to staying on task. But she admits that the alarm actually benefits her more; helping her keep track of time. “Teachers have so many content standards to achieve, we must be aware of time to fit it all in.”

Another strategy she uses daily is building community in the classroom with student-led morning meetings. Allowing students to direct the dialogue sets the tone for the day, and helps children feel like they are part of the group. “My students can share whatever they want with their class—personal things, achievements, challenges they face in and outside of school. Every student gets a chance to share if they want to –and by the end of the year, even the most introverted student will have the confidence to get in front of the group. You can see the confidence build over time in the child…as a teacher you just know.” It works.

“My MAT coursework also showed me the need, especially in Special Student Populations to tailor my lesson plans each year to my students. There is no “cookie cutter” lesson plan anymore—teachers must be flexible and innovative to reach each and every student, as all classrooms become increasingly diverse.

On a national level, diversity in the classroom is gaining increased importance. Whether they’re cultural or cognitive—we are embracing student differences in our inclusive classrooms, rather than excluding students who don’t fit the mold. Inclusion generally refers to teaching students who have disabilities or special needs within the general education classroom. The concept of inclusion has been widely adopted in the United States.

Fettrow cautions that while special education inclusion is an ideal to strive for, there should be ample support in place for it to work properly. The reality for many districts across the country right now is that budgets are tight. Incorporating an inclusion program when there is not enough staff to support it, can result in a poor use of valuable resources. She believes that part of the school day should ideally include special education students in small learning groups with other similarly challenged peers. These students need to find acceptance in both worlds; so striking the right balance between regular classroom inclusion and intensive, individually-focused resource rooms is key to a successful program.

“Diversity is just a healthy thing every classroom should strive for,” Fetrrow says. “It is what balance is all about in education.” She personally appreciated the opportunity to collaborate and problem solve with a diverse online group of educators through the MAT program. “I could exchange information and share successes with teachers from a wide range of settings, urban and rural areas, public and private, large and small.” The program connects students with mentors and teaching professionals from all educational backgrounds and experience levels. “I recommend Marygrove MAT to all of my colleagues,” said Fettrow.

It’s a great program for finding the master in every kind of K-12 teacher.

Melissa Fettrow is a 4-year teacher in the Groveport Madison District, Columbus. She teaches third grade special education at Glendening Elementary. She earned her MAT from Marygrove College in May, 2011.


Tags: Special Education, Alumni

“Better pay… better opportunities…MAT changed my life profoundly.”

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jun 22, 2011 5:47:00 PM

Morehead Planetarium Science CenterWhen I think of the impact of the Marygrove College online Master In the Art of Teaching (MAT) program over the last two years, I find myself creating a list of superlatives, and reaching for expressions one might expect from a movie critic after experiencing the finest movie he has seen in decades!

Perhaps it is better to list the skills the MAT program has helped me develop, such as reflective practices, differentiation within any group, and compassion for those in my care.

I suppose I could focus on the difficulty of the work, the late hours, the churn within my mind as I pondered new concepts for weeks and months on end. Instead, I’d rather bask in the profundity of the experience, the depth of my emotional bonds to those who guided me through this course of study, or the applications I have found for Backward Design within my own family structure. Not to mention the measurable successes in my professional life.  

Measurable Successes in My Professional Life
In December of 2008, I applied to become a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and was accepted into the program two weeks later. I had discovered this NASA volunteer position after the application deadline, but the fact that I was enrolled in the MAT program at Marygrove swayed the coordinator to accept my late application.

Early in 2009, I gathered all the educators together at my facility (I am a nontraditional educator at a science museum) and formed an informal collaborative group called Evening Among The Stars (EATS). This program was so successful in creating bonds among my colleagues and allowing for educators to share knowledge and experience in a formalized but exciting and collegial way, it has since become an integral program in our division.

MAT Program Challenged Me to Grow
Since being accepted into the MAT program, in spite of the fact that my “day job” has nothing to do with teaching, I have seen my salary increase 50 percent and have had regular job offers. These have come, in part, due to my enrollment in the Marygrove College MAT program. I have accepted three positions, each with substantial increases in opportunity and pay-- and better working conditions.

Has the MAT program affected my ability to interact with my students? Undoubtedly. Has my ability to teach to a well-crafted lesson plan at the planetarium improved?  Distinctly so. Most importantly, however, the program challenged me to grow, reflect on my own practices, contribute to the research in my own teaching environment, and subsequently partner more closely with the Director of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. In fact, the Director and I are working on the second draft of our article based on my master’s research that we hope to have published in the next calendar year.

This is the first time I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone within an academic context, while having a virtual host of new skills to apply directly to nearly every venue of my life.  Marygrove has changed my life profoundly and I am forever in the debt of those who provided such a strong challenge in the form of this MAT program.

Michael G. Neece, M.A.T, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, 2010
eClinical Data Specialist, eClinical Scientist, ClinForce, Durham, NC
Instructor and Presenter, Star Show, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Chapel Hill, NC, Solar System Ambassador, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, North Carolina

Tags: Success, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment, Alumni

Our Most Popular Blog Posts

Subscribe to the Marygrove MAT Blog!

Comments on this Blog Post