This month's Lab Schools Spotlight is:
Life in the Laboratory Schools
Cassandra Mattoon has been a valuable asset to the Laboratory Schools for the last 14 years, teaching preschool for nine years, and spending the last five years teaching kindergarten. Prior to joining Metcalf, she taught 3rd grade for two years and 1st grade for six years at a private school in the Bloomington Normal community. Mattoon has been a part of Illinois State University for many years, receiving both her Bachelors and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from ISU. She is continuing to learn and grow in their Principal Prep Program. Mattoon has her national board certification as an early childhood generalist.
Life Outside of the Classroom
Outside of the classroom, Mattoon is very involved with partnerships and research at Illinois State University. She has taught both early childhood literacy and early childhood mathematics classes through the years.
Research at Illinois State informs many of Mattoon’s teaching decisions. Initially, she introduced iPads into her preschool classroom to look at the impact of technology integration on her practice and philosophy. This led to a two year long research study with Dr. Alan Bates looking at the effectiveness of teaching mathematics to preschool children using technology, versus with a traditional manipulative approach.They found that there was no significant difference. This continued to research on phonological awareness using the same comparison with technology, which also showed no significant difference. More recently, she has partnered with Dr. Amanda Cullen and Dr. Allison Kroesch to look at how students problem solve in mathematics, particularly looking at student to student interaction.
Another research study brought Mattoon and Dr. Sherry Sanden together to look at read-alouds. Mattoon recorded and transcribed her read-alouds, and they would meet monthly to reflect on student and teacher reaction, as well as questioning strategies. Through their research, they noticed that there was a gap in the literature on literacy. Mattoon shares that most texts and books were focused on literacy skills such as how to teach phonological awareness, phonics, or general teaching strategies. However, she couldn’t find enough literature on how to plan and create great discussions around classroom read-alouds. Thus, in conjunction Dr. Sanden and Dr. Sandra Osario, Mattoon wrote the book, Book Talk: Growing Into Early Literacy Through Read-Aloud Conversations. Cassandra explains that her writing was a great learning experience. It was a great reflection not only on what she was doing in the classroom, but the impact her instructional choices have on her students.
To quote Mattoon, “Ultimately, our kids are my why. I want to be a better person and teacher for them, so that they can become better humans.” She has a drive to always continue learning and never be complacent. She explains that she has to keep learning, growing and changing to meet the needs of her students.