Back to the Classroom

Today’s Contributor: Jud Thomas

Jud Thomas is a 6th Grade – Math and Science at Mathews Elementary

“Have you lost your mind? What’s wrong with you?” I must have heard these questions a few dozen times over the course of the 2017-18 school year. You see, I’m one of the few teachers who left the classroom to become a school librarian, and after 5 years, decided that I missed the thrill of teaching math and the community of having my own class.  I made the decision to return to the classroom to teach math and science.

My colleagues in librarianship could hardly fathom such a choice. “Really? Back to standardized testing, grading, and parent conferences?”  Yes, those things and much more, including academic rigor, strong relationships with learners, and the chance to engage students in authentic project based learning.  Well, it turns out that 5 years away from the classroom is a long time and surprisingly, a lot has changed in that time. Technology, especially, has come a long way since 2012.

Students now have devices in the palm of their hand that can access the universe of information in real time. How would I manage this? What about social media? Does it have a place in the classroom? How can I best make use of the incredible technology available to my 6th graders to make learning meaningful and fun?

I made some mistakes this year, but I have successes to share too. I think my greatest success was making use of the blended learning platform, BLEND.  I was able to implement several projects that incorporated digital research and production tools to give students voice and choice in their learning.  For example, instead of giving students a research project where they look up information in a book or on a website so that they can make a poster, I was able to design a content page including web links, video clips, images, and rubrics. They were able to choose their resources and ultimately, choose how they would present their information. They could make a video, a slideshow, a brochure, a prototype model, or a presentation with voice over narration. Several of our students even got to present their design thinking at an innovation summit at ACC this fall! I was so proud.

I’m thrilled to plan for next year and I’m excited to design my units of study with BLEND as the main platform for housing content.  I think of it as a launchpad for ideas.  It’s a way to engage students and give them the voice and choice that they need to be successful.  Ultimately, I’m so pleased that I made the choice to return to the classroom.  No, I haven’t lost my mind (yet). This is truly an exciting age to be a teacher and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Math 2
  Students present their design thinking at the ACC Innovation summit in October.
Matt 1
Students present their design thinking at the ACC Innovation summit in October.


  1. You left a great mark on the students in the library but I can imagine you are leaving an equal or greater impact on your 6th Graders. Just imagine how much tech will change in the next 5 years!

  2. Jud! This is awesome! I’ve thought a few times about going back to the classroom, but I just love the library too much. Good for you for taking such awesome ideas back to teaching! I’m thrilled to know you’re still out there making a positive impact. 🙂 In fact, I’d love to connect you with Maplewood’s 6th grade Math/Science teacher, John Wetherold. 🙂 Keep up the great work!

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