Technology and tradition

New first grade teacher at the Academy finds the sweet spot between tech and paper ’n pencils.

Grosse Pointe Academy first-grade teacher Emma Bertin is with her fiancé in County Derry during her time in Ireland studying to earn a master’s degree through Michigan State University.

Grosse Pointe Academy first-grade teacher Emma Bertin knew she wanted to work as a teacher nearly since she herself was a first grader. Well, actually it was in the fifth grade, but close enough.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and honestly I’m not sure what I would do if I wasn’t teaching,” said Bertin, who is in her first year on staff at GPA. “I actually remember writing an essay for a contest in fifth grade about my goal of becoming a teacher.”

She also said she became a teacher because she had some great teachers to look up to, plus, she’s always enjoyed working with children.

“I love getting to know their unique personalities and helping them grow both academically and socially throughout the year,” she said.

Bertin brings to the Academy an obvious and strong passion for teaching young students. But along with that passion, she brings a rather unique perspective on introducing technology in the classroom due to a recently completed master’s degree from Michigan State University that included two summers in Ireland.

Bertin is with her fiancé at a friend’s wedding in Jamaica.

“It was an accelerated study-abroad program for educational technology,” she said. “I have to admit there definitely was an added bonus being in beautiful Galway, Ireland, and traveling the country on weekends when I wasn’t studying. But seriously, I cannot say enough positive things about the program. I built strong relationships with teachers from around the world and learned so much about technology integration and about the many related programs that could be implemented in my classroom.”

Bertin noted, however, that as a result of the program in Ireland, she learned that introducing technology into the classroom must be done with caution and care.

“One of the biggest takeaways from my courses in Ireland was that there needs to be a balance when using technology,” said Bertin, who previously taught third grade for four years and served as an academic specialist for K through eight in a Taylor, Mich., school. “Children should have access to technology, but it should not be used to replace paper and pencil tasks. Instead, it should be used as an enhancement tool to further their understanding. It’s another reason I am excited to be at GPA, because here I have the capability and resources to include technology in my teaching and put the knowledge I gained directly into practice.”

Jen Kendall, The Grosse Pointe Academy’s assistant head of school for early and lower school education and the school’s director of curriculum, knew from the beginning that Bertin was the right choice to find that happy balance of technology and tradition for GPA’s first graders.

“Hiring Emma was one of the easiest decisions I’ve had to make,” said Kendall. “Her passion for education and children was evident during our very first interview. When she was in Ireland finishing her master’s program, it was clear even when we communicated through Skype how much Emma was connected to her profession, understood child development and how to reach each child she works with. It was also evident that Emma understood how technology could be used as a tool within the classroom to enhance the learning process.”

Bertin shows her beloved Spartans’ flag on the Sliabh Liag Cliffs in County Donegal during her summer in Ireland.

Kendall added that once Bertin arrived on campus she jumped right in and immediately formed a strong partnership with the school’s other first grade teacher, Lindsey Baratta.

“They have become a wonderful team and I enjoy watching them work together to make the first-grade experience at GPA a natural transition from our Montessori Early School,” Kendall said.

Meanwhile, Bertin, who grew up in Rochester Hills, Mich., has fully embraced the Academy’s focus on its mission of preparing young learners to be inquisitive, intellectual and responsible global citizens.

“The most important part of my job is helping my students realize their potential, even at this very young age,” she said. “I try to create a classroom that empowers students to try new things, to always do their best even when things seem too hard and, most importantly, to ask questions. For example, just the other day we were reading a story and it mentioned Mount Rushmore. I had a student raise his hand to ask what Mount Rushmore was. We took a break from the lesson so I could show them a picture and explain what it was. I so love that type of curiosity!”