Teacher Spotlight: Marissa Harrer

Marissa Harrer teaches second grade in the FSDB Deaf Elementary School. She is known for an exceptional math curriculum and sense of humor. She co-teaches this year in the same classroom with two other second grade teachers – the classroom is in Kramer Hall, while Gore Hall is being renovated. She feels fortunate to work with such a fun, experienced, and supportive grade level team. The co-teaching model allows them to take turns teaching different subjects, which they enjoy.

What was your pathway to becoming a teacher here at FSDB?

I was that kid who always knew I wanted to be a teacher. You know, the kind that played school … after school. When I was in high school, I started taking ASL classes and fell in love with the language. It was then that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, teach Deaf students! I went to college at Flagler and was able to build relationships with staff members while on internship here at FSDB. Upon completing my internship, I got a job as the Deaf Department’s floating teacher. I floated for about a year and a half and eventually landed in Deaf Elementary School as a second grade teacher.  I am now in my sixth year of teaching at FSDB and wouldn’t have it any other way!

How do you feel about technology in the classroom?

I am a big proponent of using technology in the classroom. I recently completed the UNF Educational Technology master’s program and learned lots of new ways to integrate technology into my instruction. Technology keeps students engaged and motivated to learn and that is so wonderful to see. That said, there are a few caveats. Sometimes, especially at the elementary level, students are not savvy enough to manipulate certain technologies – but those skills can be taught. Another caveat can be the student to device ratio ­– but again that can be overcome with doing team or small group activities.

You identified math as one of your teaching passions?

I love teaching math! I am a very numbers-oriented person and I love being able to share that with the students. One of my favorite aspects to teach is collecting and displaying data. The students love walking around the building asking for data from their peers and other staff members. Then creating tables and graphs {with the data} is so fun and visual for students.

What are Number Talks?

Number Talks are brief, skill-focused math discussions. Each morning we start the day with a quick Number Talk. I put a problem or picture on the board, ask the students a question, and give them thinking time. While they are thinking, they place their fist on their chest; when they have an answer, they change their fist to a thumbs-up. I record each student’s answer on the board, right or wrong. Then students take turns explaining and defending their answers. Some of the best learning comes from students defending an incorrect answer and leading themselves into the right answer. I am able to assess so much during Number Talks and this activity is such good practice for students – they learn to incorporate mental math and explain their thought processes. I learned about Number Talks from our math specialist, B.J. Mayo.

Do you run a “token economy” in your classroom, and how does it work?

We do! We came to an agreement about how to set up our behavior management system and one thing we all liked, and that was the use of coins. Skip counting and counting coins are two important standards for second grade so we thought using them to reinforce behavior would help us teach those concepts all year. Students are given pennies for participation, good behavior, hard work, and so on. They use their coins to buy snacks, or save them to buy activities during Fun Fridays. They can also change them in for nickels, dimes, and quarters. We have some students even trading for half dollars! The students enjoy keeping track of their money and it is fun to see them becoming more fluent with coin identification and skip counting!

By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services Department

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit