When Marilyn Howland began teaching in Woodward 27 years ago, things were a lot different.

“When I first started teaching, there was not a computer in the building,” she said.

Howland, a teacher at Cedar Heights Elementary, says this is the biggest change she’s seen since she began teaching in Woodward in 1978 the way the students are so comfortable with technology and in many cases are teaching the teachers and parents as much as they’re learning from and teaching each other.

“Since I did not grow up with technology, it has been a learning process for me, but the more I work with it, the easier it becomes for me to do,” said Howland.

The classrooms of the early 80’s were a world of film strips, movie projectors, chalkboards, typewriters, planning and grade books and hand-written tests. In the 21st century, all that’s been replaced by CD’s, DVD’s, mp3’s and our electronic friend the computer. Students and teachers now use the overhead, the dry erase board and take tests daily on the computer. Teachers now enter and average grades on the computer and post lesson plans and grades online.

“”It think that’s going to continue to be the change,” said Howland. “The first time I had a computer in my room, I was on a rotating schedule. When you have 20 some students and only one computer, they only get to use it once or twice a week.” Students now test daily for accelerated reader and math placement scores.

While technology appears to be a wonderful thing, Howland says for some stuff the old way just works better.

“I still introduce fractions by using a Hershey candy bar,” Howland said.

Howland said hands on works better than pencil and paper or technology when it comes to Math initially. Back in the day, Howland and her co-workers used a multitude of homemade hands-on items to learn math concepts.

“They just did not have as much at that time,” said Howlin.

Howlin has learned the old way of introducing certain concepts is still the most effective, especially in terms of hands on learning, stating that she uses the computer for placement to meet students at their individual needs and levels, and to reinforce concepts already learned in the classroom.

“Sometimes the students pick up more from other students or they’ll study it in a different way or they’ll see it in a different way,” said Howland. “There’s even more technology coming.”

In addition to classroom technology, the way teachers approach their job today has also changed.

“Used to be we had the same subjects, but not as many guidelines,” said Howland. “Teaching is forever changing.”

Whether it’s technology or hands-on learning, centers are the new means by which to assess and meet each child’s needs individually.

Howland was on a rotating schedule between grade schools for the beginning of her teaching career, but says she’s found a home at Cedar Heights as one of the school’s and community’s matriarch teachers.

“Another great thing about teaching is working with other teachers,” said Howland. She currently serves as Cedar Heights grade level chair person for third grade and has mentored two student teachers now teaching at Woodward Middle School North. Then there’s teaching the children of children you’ve taught in the past.

“It’s neat that after you’ve taught students, they come back or you see them downtown and they talk about what we used to do,” said Howland.

But perhaps Howland’s years as a teacher could best be summed up with the following:

“It’s kind of neat to see a sparkle in their eye when they gain something that they’ve been struggling with,” said Howland.

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