In Conversation With California’s Teacher Of The Year 2015

Teacher appreciation in America is a week-long celebration of all that teachers do, their hard work, and their dedication.

This year to celebrate Teacher’s Day (May 3rd for those of you who didn’t know!), we decided to bring you the story of one of California’s “Teacher of the Year” award winners. Maggie Mabery of Manhattan Beach Middle School not only won the honor in 2015, but went on to be nominated for the National Teacher of the Year award!

Maggie has dedicated almost two decades to bringing love for science and technology to her students’ lives. A 7th and 8th grade science teacher, she has one motto for her classroom: “Keep Calm and Science On.”

Her classrooms are models of “blended learning,” seamlessly blending technology and teaching. Read on to find out more about Maggie, her “Invention Conventions”, and blended learning!


“Teaching Is In My DNA”

When we catch up with Maggie on a sunny Tuesday after school, we ask what inspired her to become an educator. “Teaching is in my DNA,” she says.

She started her college career in dietetics but on what she calls a “spur,” changed course to education. “When I told my mom, she just said she always knew I’d be a teacher.” Soon, Maggie found herself teaching 7th grade.

Then, 15 years ago, Maggie began teaching at Manhattan Beach Middle School – and hasn’t looked back. She even credits the staff there for her award: “It’s really a group award – it was certainly a staff effort!”


“The Right Time And Place”

Maggie’s interest in technology and her seamless way of blending it into her lessons were a perfect fit for her school! The school, and Maggie’s department were some of the first to implement a one-on-one iPad curriculum.

“It really was the right time and place. We were at the forefront of that movement!” Maggie says of the decision to bring blended learning to the classroom. “It allowed the learning to become a lot more individualized.”

Every Friday, Maggie’s 8th grade classroom plays host to “The Invention Convention.” What does that look like? A meeting of the bright minds of future innovators and men and women who are shaping the world of technology today.

A day at the “Invention Convention” included FaceTime with a patent lawyer who helped Maggie’s classroom of young innovators and builders navigate their way through the 7-year process of obtaining a patent!


“A Job That Doesn’t Involve Technology”

So how do students benefit from having a curriculum that’s powered by technology? In Maggie’s classroom, the answer is manifold.

On any given day Maggie’s students find themselves working on projects that range from making science related iMovies, publishing their own books, “whiteboarding” ideas for their very own apps, and so much more!

When asked what she thinks of detractors of this new way of learning, she says,“Can you name one job that doesn’t involve technology in some form?

The data from blended learning programs all over the country speaks for the success of this teaching method:

The Benefits


“It’s Only Getting Bigger”

Maggie ensures her students learn the skills that will help them find their way to fruitful and amazing careers they can grow to be proud of.

She teaches her students how to fill out trademark and patent forms, write effective emails and business letters to potential investors and mentors! In her own words – she wants to “set them up for success.”

As for the role of technology in students’ lives? “It’s only getting bigger,” she says with a laugh, “my daughter who is in the 2nd grade is already asking for a smartphone!”

“I typed my college essay on a typewriter and mailed it to the colleges, while kids today are doing everything over the internet. It’s important that our educational values reflect that.”


“I Didn’t Do So Well Today”

So what prompted Maggie’s students and colleagues to nominate her for the Spring 2014 Teacher of The Year award at Manhattan Beach Middle School?

It is Maggie’s incredible ability – an ability many teachers share, whether homeschooling or in traditional classrooms – to understand that real success lies just outside the comfort zone. She is not afraid to take on new challenges, her own understanding of technology has grown as she has taken on blended learning within her classroom.

She is also a firm believer in introspection: “I’m okay with saying ‘I didn’t do so well today. How can I make this better?’.”

She puts her students first and wants to make learning a truly enjoyable and exciting experience for them. “We do science by getting down and dirty,” she says with a laugh.

Her goal is to reach every student and every type of learner in her classroom technology has helped her do just that.

Maggie’s achievements are a testament to most teachers’ profound interest in their students’ success.

Want to know a little more about Maggie? Check out this video:


Have you stepped into classrooms with decades old prom pictures or thank you cards plastered behind teachers’ desks? Or found yourself “googling” a favorite old teacher?

Then you know what it means to have had a wonderful mentor.

On behalf of deeply grateful students everywhere – no matter what their age – the team at Educents thanks the wonderful teachers of the world.