Creativity and teaching go hand and hand, as teaching is all about helping others, Mercedes Rivas-Dear is a teacher that likes to make the lives of others better. Mercedes teaches at Wellstone International High School and specializes in Social Studies. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Education and a Masters Degree in Education Technology from Concordia University. Mercedes was born in Panama and moved to the United States at age 20. Mercedes is a mother of three adult sons and six grandchildren. She has a passion for teaching and is inspired by helping students achieve their full potential. The interview took place at a coffee shop in Rosedale near her school on Monday February 4th, 2019. I chose to interview Mercedes because I am inspired with her creative personality and passion for teaching. She said that she had gained and developed her knowledge by reading everything she sees and by being a good listener. Mercedes is a very creative person and uses books, technology and people to search for information to generate ideas.
Mercedes enjoys reading books in her free time and considers herself a bookworm. She enjoys both fiction and nonfiction books. Mercedes has one room in her house that she uses as a library, which contains about 400 to 500 books and has a hard time getting rid of books. She also has about couple 100 of ebooks, which come in handy because they can be download and read wherever you are and don’t take up space on a shelf. One disadvantage she spoke of was when she was engrossed in a really good ebook, while reading on an airplane and her iPad went dead with no way to charge it, but it gave her a chance to strike up a good conversation with the person sitting next to her.
She prefers paper books because she likes to write notations in them that she can always refer back to easily. She keeps a list of books that she wants to read, so she always has them at her fingertips for a rainy or cold day. She said she reads whenever she has free time especially in the winter instead of watching tv or movies. She prefers to grab a cup coffee and snuggle by the fire and catch up on a great book. Occasionally, she will spend time at the library when searching for new books, using the libraries databases for gathering information or to ask the librarian for advise. She reminded me to make sure that I always check the library first before buying anything because it might save me some money.
She uses technology which includes the use of iPhone, iPad, tv, computer and the internet to gather information to generate ideas. When formulating questions she will use specific keywords and will do multiple searches with synonyms or alternate words to limit her searches. Her favorite search engines for the internet are Google, Yahoo, and Google Scholar. When searching she filters her results using boolean logic or advanced search tools. She said she tells her students to stay open minded because everything you read isn’t always true. She also tells her students to check the validity of information they should look to see when the information was created or last updated, if the source has reputable affiliations and checks the author’s credentials to make sure they are suitable. Lastly, she compiles and saves the information by paraphrasing it in her own words to a new file with its sources which include title, date, author, and URL. That way you can always find them again if needed.
Generally when she is looking for information that’s related to work, she will use the following mediums: library databases, websites, documentaries, Wikipedia, Youtube, scholarly articles,, apps, movies and Pinterest. When she said the word Pinterest, it was like a light bulb went on in her head and stated “That is an awesome website, you can get so many great ideas from it”. She told me about a time when she used Pinterest and found a really cool idea for a school activity for her students. It was a cup stacking team building activity. It involved giving a group of students a rubber band, four pieces of string about 2 feet long and six plastic cups. Then the groups of four students have to find a way to stack the cups into a pyramid formation using the materials given to them without touching the cups with their bare hands. The activity forces the students to work together, be creative, be cooperative and to use problem solving skills. She got great feedback from the students, and they had a lot of fun doing the activity. Plus it was just as fun to watch the students work together laughing and smiling. To make it even more challenging she added some alterations to it.
The students first were told they couldn’t talk for the first 20 minutes then after they could start speaking. I found it fascinating that not only was she able to search and find this project but she was also able to be creative and alter it to fit her needs. She did mention that she likes using Wikipedia but you need to be careful because information is not always correct or up to date. She stated that it is a great starting point because it does have a lot of helpful information but should never be used for research papers. Also, she uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for personal use. Her friendly advice was to make sure to check the library before purchasing anything because you could save yourself some money.
Mercedes loves to travel and meet new people, and there’s no better way to learn than to engage with others and their cultures. Growing up in Panama City and later on moving to the United States has already broadened her horizon as she has learned to adapt to a new culture at a young age. She stated the best way that she learned English was by living in the United States and practicing it every day. When Mercedes is struggling to come up with new ideas on her own, she will collaborate and brainstorms with others. She uses brainstorming a lot when dealing with difficult students, look for ways to make teaching more fun, ways to motivate students, encourage class participation, and address different learning styles. She states that she always keeps an open mind. It doesn’t have to mean that you accept it, but you should listen because things are always changing and there’s always room for improvement.
I noticed throughout the interview she kept reiterating that you always have to keep an open mind, and that doesn’t mean that you have to accept it, but you should listen because things are always changing and there’s always room for improvement. I was not really surprised by anything she said, but it reinforced and strengthened my thinking to be curious, read and listen for that every moment we can learn something. Some similarities I noticed Mercedes mentioned that she keeps a list of books she wants to read and has a library room in her house as stated in the Little Guide to Your Well-read Life book where it mentions making a list of books you want to read and building your own library so you will always have books on hand (Leveen, 12-16).
Also Mercedes mentioned the advantages of Ebooks ease of portability and take up less space which is mentioned in “Week 2: Books, Literacy, and Reading“ (Sonsteby). Another similarity, I notice she talked about the importance of Internet sources, people as sources and listening which all are mentioned in “Week 3: Interviews and People as Sources“ (Sonsteby). Also, she stated not to trust everything you read as stated in Everything is Miscellaneous The Power of the New Digital Disorder states that some information might not be reliable and should be checked for inaccuracies (Weinberger, 140).
Both Mercedes and in “Week 4: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources“ notes talked about how Wikipedia can be a good source of information and starting point, but not something you should use in a research paper (Sonsteby). I learned how easy that it was to add information to Wikipedia as we had to do it as one of our class assignments. It was cool to see that you could even see who made the changes and when. Lastly in “Week 5: News, The Information Cycle, and the Search for Truth“ notes mentioned you shouldn’t buy anything until you have check the library first because you could save yourself some money, Mercedes had the same advice about saving money (Sonsteby). Overall the interview went well, but when reviewing my notes I thought of some additional questions I wish I had asked. Next time I will make sure to record the interview because it was hard to keep up and take informative notes during the interview, in which made it hard to ask follow-up questions.
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