Mrs. Elizabeth Bentley has seen a lot of changes in the classroom since she first became an English teacher in 1979. She started teaching in a school with the open classroom concept, and in the 1990s, she became a co-teacher of a classroom of 60 students. Her classroom now is fitted with an overhead projector and Apple TV, and her students access their textbook on their iPads. What remains the same is her love of her subject and teaching.
“I love the kids,” she said. “They keep you young. For the most part, our kids are really good, and they are just fun to be with.”
Mrs. Bentley previously taught in Illinois, Ohio, and Florida before coming to Providence in the fall of 2011, having moved to Louisville after marrying her husband, Jim. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in language arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and started out teaching junior high. She received her master’s degree in education from Ashland College in Ohio and her master’s in English from Governors State University in Chicago, her hometown.
At Providence, she started teaching junior high language arts and Honors English 9 and Honors English 10. She now teaches Honors English 9, Honors English 10, and English 10 and serves as the English Department chairperson.
Mrs. Bentley said teaching students today has its own set of challenges with their ready access to technology. For example, their emails and essays can sometimes be written in the same truncated syntax they use when texting and sending Snapchat messages. But students soon learn the difference, and she said she is pleased to see so many of her sophomores having improved writing skills from freshman year.
“I’ve seen a lot of student growth in writing,” Mrs. Bentley said.
Technology in the classroom does save instructional time, she said, because the students can access research material on their iPad instead of making multiple trips to the library. They can also type their essays on their iPad instead of in the computer lab, and they can readily create projects, movies, and Keynotes presentations on their tablets.
That same access, however, can be a distraction. Not only do teachers have to be vigilant about looking for students’ playing on their devices instead of paying attention to instruction, but the students also have even less desire to read books than in the past.
“They have to be engaged at all times,” she said, adding that the multiple apps alerting them continually of updates and messages also keep them from having free time. “If it was a choice of nothing to do, they might pick up a book,” but with cell phones in their hands, they rarely are disengaged from technology.
So Mrs. Bentley finds multiple ways to get them engaged, from having reading time in her classroom to encouraging them to listen to books on tape. She tries to find shorter novels and ones that will interest them. Then she assigns presentations, acting out of important scenes, and essays to help them use higher level thinking skills.
She also tries new techniques, such as chunk writing, one which the students grasped immediately when she introduced it recently, she said. The technique helps them include quotations and paraphrases in their essay assignments and analyze them, a good preparation for research papers and synthesis essays.
The implementation of BLUE Day sessions has been a positive educational concept, Mrs. Bentley said, and she is really pleased with the results. The PLC sessions with fellow English teachers gives them an avenue to share ideas and improve communication. For students, it provides a scheduled time for them to stop in with questions or to catch up on missed work after an absence.
“The kids like to know they can come in during that time,” she said. “They like having access to their teachers.”
Outside of school, Mrs. Bentley and her husband are working on their goal to visit every continent. Last summer, they traveled to South Africa, France and the Netherlands. Her favorite part of that trip was going on safari and visiting Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of water in the world and one of the seven natural wonders. This summer they will start out in California and then head to Australia and New Zealand. After that trip, the only continent remaining will be Antarctica.
“We love to travel,” she said. “If we’re not traveling, we’re planning our next trip.”