Lauren Mueller is not your average English Language Arts (ELA) teacher. In addition to teaching ELA several times a day, she has a few flexible classes that allows her to focus on assigning tasks that offer real-world experiences and reinforce skills that are needed beyond high school, such as time management strategies and planning for their future careers.
It is her opinion that critical thinking classes are just as important as core curriculum for students because they provide opportunities for them to learn and practice skills that are not typically presented in general education classes. When done correctly, these classes encourage students to think deeply about their futures—their careers, aspirations, likes and dislikes, and problems they may want to help solve in the future.
“I knew I wanted to make this class helpful for the students, but also fun,” said Mueller, a Miami native. “It is the perfect opportunity for students to practice coming up with solutions to real-world problems, expand their creativity, and learn skills that they’ll need not only for high school, but for their futures.”
Mueller blew it out of the water with an assignment she designed after the popular TV show, Shark Tank.
The presenter’s projects included innovative brands of clothing and shoes, a modified drone for delivery and innovative sports gear. The students and their efforts on this assignment surpassed Muller’s expectations.
“I already notice that my students are enjoying the idea they can easily create solutions to problems that they face every day and all they need is the right mindset and tools,” said Mueller. “I also noticed that a lot of my students are learning and practicing important skills while doing this project, from in-depth research to speaking with others to improve their ideas.”
The students spent two weeks from start to finish on their projects. One week was spent understanding the difference between an invention and an innovation and completing a pre-planning packet which was meant to challenge students to think outside of the box and anticipate questions that the Sharks might ask. The second week was spent making their PowerPoint presentations and practicing with their partner. Several presenters received investment offers after Mueller threw her class to the Sharks for some serious competition.
“This assignment really helped me because I want to be an entrepreneur in the future,” said Germilla Drummond, an eighth-grade student at Northport K-8. “Now I understand how I am going to make that happen, from the research aspect to asking for investments.”
Drummond also mentioned that she has an extreme case of stage fright and how this assignment made her face her fears and laid the foundation for future public speaking engagements.
Mueller tells us that when students are challenged to think about what they can do with the skills they have and are given the right platform to showcase their talents, they gain a sense of confidence when they’re successful, and on the flipside, they will gain the ability to learn how to accept critiques and improve on their skills and ideas.
“I hope that my students get a sense of the many ways they can use their love for something as well as creativity to make something life changing. I want my students to always remember that we are never confined to thinking inside of a box and that they can make a difference in the world. After a few days of hearing student conversations that involved “I’m going to be on Shark Tank in the future”, I also realized I wanted my students to have goals and aspirations and for them know they can achieve them.”
About Lauren Mueller
Mueller is a Miami native who has been teaching for five years. Before arriving at Northport K-8, Mueller was teaching sophomores and seniors at a local campus – Treasure Coast High School.
She decided to pursue education due to the impact another teacher had while she was attending school. That teacher’s name is Mrs. De Varona from Westminster Christian School in Miami.
“I started ninth grade ELA barely passing and struggling to write essays or even complete any work that met expectations,” said Mueller. Mueller grew up bilingual and commonly confused the two languages in her academic studies.
“Mrs. De Varona was my teacher from ninth through 11th grade, and she helped me advance my skills and taught me to love ELA with each passing year. By the time I was in 12th grade, I was in AP Literature, passed the AP test, and I knew ELA would always be my favorite and best subject.”
“She is the reason I decided to become a teacher.”
Now Mueller is thrilled to be a teacher here at Northport where she says she is surrounded by supportive staff and faculty, and also plenty of students that she can leave a lasting impression with like some of her teachers have done for her in the past.