This week, we chat with Amy Kasten, one of our K12ELA Course Designers!

IMG_8806Hello Amy Kasten!


Let’s begin with our first question: What work have you done with the Saylor Foundation?

I had the opportunity to develop, write, and create content for the Grade 6 ELA course and course assessments.

That’s great! (For the reader: K12ELA6 is just waiting to be unveiled after the uploading process is complete!) What keeps you buy outside of working with us?

The best source of busy-ness in my life is provided by my two daughters, Madelyn and Ella, who are (almost) 4 and 1.5 years old. I love spending time outside going on “adventures” with my girls, swimming, reading, and doing projects with them. I’m also lucky to have another job that I love as a middle school language arts and social studies teacher at a fantastic school where I’m fortunate to work with great students and teachers. Spending time with my family and teaching occupies a lot of my time, but I also love to read, travel, take photographs, exercise, and play around with new technology.

You are quite busy! Considering your profession and especially your enjoyment with technology, how did you get involved in open and/or online education?

Over the past several years, I’ve been exploring ways to incorporate more of the phenomenal educational resources and technologies available in our innovative world into the middle school classes that I teach. As I have experimented with blended learning and the flipped classroom approach to instruction, my eyes have been opened to so many incredible open education resources and online education opportunities of which I’d been previously unaware. While searching for resources to use in differentiating content for my own students, I came across the Saylor Foundation, which in turn brought me here today!

That’s wonderful! I am glad that we came up on your search. We have lots of resources available to educators just like yourself. How has your work with the Saylor Foundation changed your professional practice or added to your professional/personal repertoire?

My work with the Saylor Foundation really has opened my eyes to the breadth of open education resources that are available to everyone. This has been beneficial to me as a middle school teacher and to my students because I’m pulling into my teaching many of the resources my Saylor experience has linked me to. Differentiating lessons and providing my students with unique, personalized learning experiences has become a much more attainable task as a result of my work experience with the Saylor Foundation.

On the flipside, what did you bring into your work with Saylor that was advantageous?

On the flip side, there is no doubt that the lessons I’ve learned from my middle school students and middle school teaching experiences were advantageous for the development of this Saylor Foundation course. My previous work and familiarity with the Common Core Standards was also helpful since they are the framework for the Saylor ELA courses.

What advice would you give to other teachers interested in open and/or online education?

My biggest piece of advice for those interested in delving into the world of open education and online education and resources would be first, to start small, and second, not to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to jump in and quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of resources and options that exist, so start with a few small ways you’d like to integrate these resources into your instruction. Once you feel like you’ve mastered a few small ways, evaluate your progress and go from there. Some things will end up being a bust, while others will be met with great success and enthusiasm from your students.

Speaking from experience, I think all of us in the office would agree with that! What do you truly enjoy about your work?

My parents (both retired educators with an amazing 70 years of combined experience) always told my sisters and I that if we found a job we loved, then we’d never “work” a single day in our whole lives. Ironically, both of my sisters and myself all ended up choosing to teach and are lucky to have found the truth in what our parents told us. I love passing my love of learning onto my students, encouraging creativity, and helping to mold the leaders and doers of the future.

Lifelong learning at its best! What school/other advice would you have for our young student readers?

The advice I always have for my student readers is really simple. It’s this: READ! It doesn’t matter what you read, just read, and do it often!

Great! And last but not least, what advice would you have for those who have graduated, or are themselves, parents of students?

My suggestion to graduates and parents alike is to never quit learning. The great thing about having graduated is that what you learn about is now entirely up to you. As is evident by the Saylor Foundation’s work, the wealth of information available, for free, at your fingertips, is boundless. Interested in history? Photography? Political theory? Coding? Free courses and resources exist for pretty much everything and are all accessible with a few clicks of a mouse. This is a monumental milestone for humans around the world, because at last, anyone with access to the internet has access to more knowledge and information than ever before! Have fun and dive in — you never know where your quest for new knowledge may take you…