06 Nov Teacher Spotlight: Suzanne Kobilka
We couldn’t do our life-changing work without the help of teachers. They’ve brought Rêve Academy’s coursework into dozens of local classrooms, helping us reach thousands of students. Under a teacher’s guidance—and with curriculum and coaching support from the Academy—students learn marketable skills in business, technology, and design. We sat down with Suzanne Kobilka, a teacher at Folwell School, Performing Arts Magnet in South Minneapolis, to learn more about why she chose Rêve Academy’s curriculum.
Suzanne, tell us a little bit about yourself and your job.
I have a 7-12 life science license, and I currently teach 8th grade Earth Science. I’ve been teaching for sixteen years. I’ve really been enjoying myself as a teacher—I love Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and doing fun and goofy things with the kids.
How did you hear about the Rêve Academy program?
I knew I wanted to do an after school class with the group of girls that I am already teaching as part of an outdoor program. We are taking them on three camping trips over the course of a year and I wanted to keep our bond and discuss our experience in between our trips. Our ALC coordinator suggested that Rêve Academy’s Web Design 101 class would give us a direction for our trips. For example, the kids could design their website around their outdoor experience. And a part of it would be bonding and teamwork and getting connections between us, because a lot of the kids don’t know each other. My secret reason is really not so secret, because I keep telling them: it’s for integration. They are all from different cultures and I want them to get along with each other and not sit apart. Plus, there are all those perks that go with it – you get something useful like web-design skills, and there is this option of having the kids become interns at the end of the program that just sounded really awesome. Everybody wants to have a job skill, so the kids are really excited about it.
Do your students attend any other technology class?
Things have changed so much over the past couple of years. We used to have a teacher, but I think for five years, they haven’t had a middle school technology class. I have a set of laptops in my class, which I got about seven years ago. But they are just clunkers, and take a long time to start, so I don’t use them very often. The only things the kids know are the things they have taught themselves, and kids are getting pretty good at that with technology. But not all of my students have access to a phone or computer.
What’s your experience been like so far with Rêve Academy’s program?
We are still at the beginning. Today is our fourth meeting within the Rêve program. It’s been good—it’s easy to find the lessons. There are some things that I am confused about, but Amanda [Rêve Academy’s Director of Academic Excellence] has been good about helping us out. The videos on the website are so encouraging and so tangible. The kids see other kids willing to do get up in front and lead up the business meeting, and they get it, and they understand that they can do it too. Having the visual examples is really helpful.
Would you recommend the program to other teachers?
Yes, definitely, especially now that I am going through the program and I see the kids growing. Last week I gave them the soft skills rubric, and we went through each of them, and have them check which ones they are regularly doing. And that brought up a whole new discussion. They say “Oh, it’s so hard to make eye contact”, and they like to listen with their heads down, and so we talked about what it means to people if they see you looking at them and nodding their head. So they started doing that to me when I talk, and it was fun to see how they internalize those people and communication skills. After school, they can be silly—they are 8th graders, and after a long day, they just want to chat with their friends. Now I can remind them, and say, “Remember that you are in job training right now! It takes a little bit of energy, but you can do it!” And they respond to that. Learning these skills and thinking about their future job is such a motivator for them.