Cally Traetto is a FSDB Deaf Middle School Science Teacher (Walker Hall). She has an exceptionally organized classroom with eye-catching and informative displays. The displays reflect scientific content as well as her sense of humor, like the description of the job of “Classroom Messenger” – Takes crucial, possibly top secret messages to destinations around Walker Hall. Her classroom also has a snake named Sunshine (cared for by the “Herpetologist”) with plans to obtain a chameleon soon!
What brought you to FSDB?
I came to Saint Augustine in 2004 to attend Flagler College. I never planned on staying, but after several practicums and internships at FSDB, I fell in love with the school. The professionals I learned from were so passionate and knowledgeable, and the students had so many opportunities for academic and personal growth. By the time I graduated from Flagler, I knew I wanted to be part of the FSDB family. I was hired in 2009 briefly as an administrative assistant, and shortly after as a Deaf Middle School teacher.
Can you describe your path to current position of Science Teacher?
I became passionate about teaching literacy, and taught reading and language arts for seven years. During that time, I received my master’s degree in reading education from the University of Central Florida. In that program I learned how important it was that we practice literacy in content areas, and I became more and more curious about what that looked like. When a science position opened up, I decided that it was my time to figure that out. Both my father and grandfather were middle school science teachers; I guess you could say it is in my genes. Since being in this position I have learned a lot about teaching literacy in the science classroom.
What do you like about teaching science?
Teaching science is fun! Yes, there is some heavy duty concepts to be taught, but by nature the subject is hands on, ignites curiosity, and, well, fun! My favorite thing to do is pose a difficult question to my students. I love to see their mental wheels turning and then interact with them while they work in labs, research opportunities, and investigations to find answers – with my support.
We had a solar eclipse and hurricane both in September. How did you teach these concepts to the kids?
When the solar eclipse approached, the DMS team rolled up their sleeves and provided multi-curricular learning experiences in stations. Students learned about eclipses in history, the math and science behind an eclipse, and safety while viewing an eclipse. Students used eclipse glasses and pinhole viewing boxes to safely view the eclipse. They journaled every 10 minutes about what they saw. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and a little rainy that day, but our students were able to see several glimpses of the eclipse. I am so lucky to work with such a wonderful group of teachers who are willing to go the extra mile for our students. When we saw that Hurricane Irma was headed our way, our schedules halted and we prepared to send kids home early. I took the afternoon before they left to give them some background and experience with hurricanes. First we looked at how clouds formed, and created a cloud in a bottle using pressure, air, and rubbing alcohol. Then students looked at lists of hurricane names and identified patterns they saw. They figured out that every season tropical storms/hurricanes are named in ABC order, alternating between a feminine name and a masculine name. After learning how hurricanes form, we ended the afternoon playing a little hurricane bingo with our new vocabulary words. It was a great way to keep all of our nerves calm and learn about the weather around us.
What’s with the iPhone plugged into the watermelon in your classroom?
We are currently working on science fair projects. One student saw on the Internet that you can plug a phone into a watermelon to charge it if it is in salty ice water. I told her that she could create a scientific experiment to test that hypothesis. After research and designing an experiment with independent and dependent variables, she tested her phone on the watermelon. She was sad to see that it did not work, but we all learned an important scientific lesson. Just because a hypothesis is not correct does not mean we failed, it means we learned something new.
On a new topic, can you describe your volunteering in Haiti?
In 2013, I joined a group of American teachers on a trip to Haiti. We went to a small town outside of the capital, Leveque. The village had several Deaf families that were displaced by the earthquake in 2010. Our role was to train members of the community who were interested in teaching in the tutoring center. On that trip I fell in love with the community, culture, and people. Since then, the tutoring center has become the Haiti Deaf Academy, and I have been back several times with other American educators to lead professional development seminars. We have also helped them develop a two-year school improvement plan focused on strengths and areas of opportunity. I love working in Haiti because Haitians are the most resilient people I have ever met. The teachers at that school have taught me what it means to work hard, love students deeply, and work together for positive outcomes during very difficult times. We all have very different perspectives, which benefits us in the mutual goal of excellence in Deaf education no matter the country.
By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services
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 www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.