Jessica Ryan (’07, ’09) Publishes Book With Professor Kevin Sheehan
By Hannah Werthan
Jessica Ryan was undeclared when she came to Molloy as a freshman. When deciding on a major, she recalled the special connection that she had with a teacher growing up and her extensive experience with kids as the oldest of four children and one of many cousins. She chose to study education.
It turns out she made the right decision. Jessica is now a successful and innovative elementary school teacher, an adjunct professor, and a published author. We spoke to her about the book she co-authored with Molloy Education professor Kevin Sheehan and how she uses social media and technology in the classroom.
Once a Lion, Always a Lion
Jessica Ryan ('07, '09) With Professor Kevin Sheehan
Jessica received her undergraduate degree in Childhood Education with a concentration in Mathematics in 2007 and earned her master's in Elementary Education and Teaching in 2009. After graduation, she kept in touch with one of her professors, Dr. Kevin Sheehan. Through Kevin, she started teaching at Molloy's Summer Institute for Teachers. In 2013, Jessica returned to Molloy as an adjunct professor, where she has been ever since, in addition to her day job as a fourth grade teacher in the Lynbrook Union Free School District.
Creating a Book through Collaboration
Kevin came to Jessica with the idea to co-author a book on teaching positive psychology to kids. "One day, he showed up to my classroom with baked goods and asked me to be part of this book he was creating," Jessica says. "The book is really Kevin's baby. It's a compilation of work that he has been passionate about for a long time. I was excited to be a part of it."
Earlier this year, Growing a Growth Mindset: Unlocking Characters in Children's Literature was published. It is divided into chapters of lesson plans created by teachers throughout Long Island. Each plan is accompanied by a children's book that highlights the theme of the lesson. Jessica tested all of the lessons in her classroom.
Inspiring Students to Succeed
A major theme in Growing a Growth Mindset is the idea that it is okay to fail. The key is to fail well. After all, Jessica says, once students get to college, they are bound to make a mistake or two. They need to have the tools to persevere and go for what they want to achieve, despite the risk of failure.
Jessica herself came up with the lesson plan for "Hope Creators: The Power of Others," a chapter in the book that speaks to the importance of hope and how to circumnavigate obstacles. To start off the lesson, students analyze the lyrics to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and learn how to "shake off" negative comments from what Jessica calls "hope crushers."
Students then read Rosie Revere, Engineer and learn about the power of "hope creators." For Rosie, her great-great-aunt serves as a motivator to keep working on her inventions, even though Rosie was not successful on her first try.
After doing a close read of the book as a class, students work with their parents to create a video at home on "hope creators." When Jessica assigned this in her classroom, she says that the parents loved the opportunity to get involved in the homework assignment and it was a great bonding and sharing experience.
Promoting Innovation in Education
The video project is just one example of Jessica's multimedia approach to learning in the classroom. In fact, she is teaching courses on social media and using technology in the classroom this summer as part of Molloy's Summer Institute. "Twitter is such a game changer in the education space. It is a wonderful way to connect with others in the profession and throw out opinions and ideas," she says. Jessica also uses Twitter to keep parents updated on what their students are learning. In terms of technology, "there are so many great tools out there. I am teaching my online classes about Flipgrid, which allows kids to record 90-second video reflections. It's perfect for students who may be shy about speaking up in class. They can go home and talk about a topic," she says.
To learn more about Growing a Growth Mindset and Jessica's teaching philosophy, check out the book's website - which includes Jessica's blog — and follow her on Twitter. You can also purchase the book here.