Jackson Middle School’s Foss named a ‘TIES Exceptional Teacher’

Kelly Foss, an eighth grade geography teacher at Jackson Middle School – A Specialty School for Math & Science (JMS), has been named a “Technology and Information Education Services (TIES) Exceptional Teacher.” A joint powers cooperative owned by 47 school districts, TIES is a Minnesota software developer. The TIES Exceptional Teacher award was established to recognize teachers in TIES member districts who model the best practices in their classroom and engaging students in learning.

Foss was nominated by JMS technology coordinator Bich Lieu Nguyen. In the nomination, Nguyen said Foss was formerly a reading teacher who made every attempt to use laptops in her classroom to let students explore the technology tools available to them. This has transferred to the geography class Foss now teaches.

“Kelly, along with her collaborative team, try to plan lessons and think about how the technology will enhance and deliver content to our 21st century learners,” Nguyen said. “As an early adopter of new technology, Kelly has her students using Schoology to access resources for her course that integrate with students’ current AH Apps accounts and Remind101. She sees the possibilities in devices such as phones, clickers, iPads, and laptops in the teaching landscape.”

Foss grew up in neighboring Brooklyn Park and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor degree in American history. She also earned a master’s degree in social studies education from the U. Foss came to JMS in 1999 after teaching in Burnsville, Osseo, Princeton, and White Bear Lake. Her husband, Dan, teaches horticulture at Champlin Park High School.

Foss went into teaching because she loves history, geography and working with kids.

“I love seeing the light ‘go on’ when a student ‘gets it,’” she said.

Foss has also always been interested in technology. When she first began teaching she also worked part time for a company that produced interactive discs (this was in the days before DVDs). She said when Macintosh computers came into the classrooms, it became easier to get students involved with technology.

Eight years ago, Foss was one of a group of teachers who had carts of laptops in their classrooms. She began working with students on Microsoft Word, Excel spreadsheets and internet searches. She has now added a Promethean Board and iPads to her cache of technology tools to engage students.

“I’ve taken summer institute classes and taken technology training offered through the University of St. Thomas,” Foss said. “Using technology is a lot about going out there, seeing what there is and playing around with it. It’s fun to figure out how to add new technology to the classroom.”

In her geography class, students use PowerPoint and have created an e-newsletter about Minnesota. Foss has a goal of becoming a more paperless classroom because turning work in electronically is becoming the norm for colleges and because using less paper is what the students’ future jobs and careers will look like.

“More technology is becoming available at our fingertips,” Foss said. “The kids have their iPods, smartphones, Kindles, and iPads for accessing information quickly. This year teachers can allow students to use their personal devices in class for work. I haven’t seen any abuse; the kids have been really good.

“I also use Reminder 101 to blast out texts to students and parents who sign up to remind them about upcoming tests or if they need to bring something to class. It goes through a web server so I don’t have the students’ phone numbers and they do not have mine. I can schedule to send the reminder to be sent at 3 p.m. so they will have it after school when they check their phones.”

Foss was very surprised to be acknowledged as a TIES Exceptional Teacher.

“I have a great collaborative team here, we share a lot of information,” Foss said. “As I moved from reading to geography last year, they’ve been very helpful. I was surprised to be the one selected for the award, I am very honored.”