Introducing Ellen Brandenberger: A New Teacher Voice at Gradeable


In her time in the classroom, Ellen, or Ms. Ellen as she was known by her 5th grade students, experienced the challenge that grading presented to many teachers. After long days of actively engaging our students, fellow teachers still needed to spend hours grading student work in order to provide timely feedback and instructional adjustments for students. Now a graduate student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Ellen joined Gradeable committed to helping teachers like herself overcome this challenge and be another (and continuing!) teacher voice in Gradeable product development and design. Ellen will be blogging about her time at Harvard, thoughts on the field of education, stories of superstar teachers, and new information surrounding the Gradeable product.

My first two weeks at Gradeable have been an incredible joy. It is fantastic to be part of a working community that is so passionate about helping my fellow teachers streamline their workflow so that instruction can truly be the central focus of teachers’ time and efforts. As an educator, I am passionate about helping other teachers be the best they can be, as I believe that teachers are at the center of successful education for students everywhere, and undervalued for the incredible amount of work that they do for their students. In the classroom, I often felt that what we needed most as educators was not an increase in effort, but rather a need for stakeholders to remember that teachers efforts, every single one, should be directed towards improving instruction and student learning opportunities.

I also bring a strong passion for personal learning, and am constantly delighted to learn new things, and discover new opportunities. This passion brought me to Harvard, where I am pursuing a Masters of Education with a focus on technologies and innovation for education. I come to this program with a fair amount of skepticism, but full of optimism: in my time in the classroom, I saw the incredible impact that technologies had on my students’ learning, yet would hesitate to say that this was the best or only way that they achieved new knowledge and skills. Instead, I believe that technology informs new opportunities for us as educators to focus on what matters most: deep and constructive student learning.

My work at Gradeable will be directly informed by this background. My role will be to support teachers and their use of the Gradeable product. This will mean responding to teacher inquiries and problems, integrating teacher feedback into the product, and being a voice for teacher needs and opinion at Gradeable, both online through social media and in person. My hope is that my role will become a portal for you to interact with Gradeable, and the each and every one of you will be comfortable reaching out to me as both a resource and a fellow educator, who, like you, understands the struggles and challenges that go along with teaching and learning. All the best.

Ellen can be reached  directly by email at Ellen@gradeable.com. Please reach out with concerns, feedback, inquires, or of course, successes with the product.


Funny Teacher Stories at the End of the School Year

teachers end of school year reflection

via the internet

As we reflect on the 2013-2014 school year, we can’t forget to remember the moments that made us laugh. Here are some teaching moments to put a smile on your face. Have a good one to share? Tell us about it in the comment section or email me bon@gradeable.com. We love a good story!

Enjoy 🙂

More than one way to dry a turkey

“When teaching a close reading lesson on a turkey recipe for 2nd graders, the ingredient list included a 14 lb. turkey, washed and dried. I asked if I could bring the turkey in the shower with me, and they laughed and agreed that I should wash it in the sink. When I asked what I should dry it with, I got the following answers: leaf blower, the sun, a hair dryer, a towel, an old shirt, the oven, and a microwave. Note: no student came up with paper towel. It was priceless.”

Katie Novak

Words to get their attention

I have a large class of Pre-Kinders this year and needless to say they are all VERY busy and VERY chatty. I also have a rocking chair for the first time in my career. So, as I was trying to begin a large group lesson and was gazing over my class wondering how in the world I was going to quiet them down, i noticed that I was beginning to feel nauseous. I looked down to see not one, but two little people, one on each side of me, rocking me away. These little people are identical twins! I planted my feet and said, “Please stop rocking me, I am feeling NAUSEOUS!” The room fell silent. All the children gazed at me in hopeful wonder until someone broke the silence and asked: “What does that mean?” I stopped and chuckled and then embraced the very teachable moment!! Out of that silly little moment, I learned that all I have to do is throw a big vocabulary word at them to gain their attention:)

— Gina Flynn

A reason to call home

I’m currently teaching a grade 4 class and when the lunch bell went a boy asked me if he can call home. I ask him why and he responds with, “My mom didn’t pack me the right sandwich. I wanted a sandwich with focaccia blackjack bread and she gave me regular bread. I need to call her because I like focaccia bread more.” That’s one of the best reasons to call home that I’ve heard.


Rhymes with what??

While on recess duty, a 1st grade girl came up to me and said that a boy swore at her and said the S word.  I asked her if she could tell me what it was and she got nervous about saying it outloud.  When I inquired more, I asked her what it rhymes with.  Without missing a beat she said it rhymes with “F%#K”.   After pulling my jaw off of the ground, I quickly told her that I would go talk to him and reminded her not to use that word again either.


Teachers don’t make that much!

I was speaking to some of my grade 7 students after school the other day when one of them asks me if I have a second job to which I reply I do. She told me she wasn’t surprised about this and when I asked her why this didn’t surprise her she responded with, “I was sure you had a second job because I saw you have an iphone 4 and we all know teachers don’t much that much!”


Hope you are keeping your humor during the home stretch. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend, folks!

Recommended reading: 


A Day in the Life of a Teacher

5 AM Wake up with these thoughts: “What am i teaching today? Did I get those grades in yet? Good god, hurry up to school so you can get some work done in peace!”

6 AM Stroll into Starbucks as one of the first ones there… as usual. You don’t even have to tell them your name anymore.

6:30 AM Get to school and debate whether you should hit the bathroom or dive into work… your bladder goes neglected once again.

7:10 AM Check email—another faculty meeting after school? A reminder that grades are due on friday—phew, still got time. Pick up leftover trash, books, pencils, love notes

7:20 AM Review lesson plan for today, wondering, “What materials do I need? Can I do all of my copies in one run?”

7:45 AM Sprint to the copy room and mail room… “Do I have time for a bathroom break?” Get stopped by a fellow teacher to cover during your prep period. Begrudgingly agree and begin to figure out what grading won’t be done during that time. Bathroom will have to wait.

8 AM One last prep of the room, set up the projector, check the powerpoint. Now 30 seconds left to get to the department meeting.

8:30 AM Go to department meeting—shared new ideas after scarfing down two donuts. Realized you should have finished chewing before enlightening your colleagues with your classroom triumphs

First period Your bladder is definitely unhappy with you, and a handful of kids are dozing off. Try out your bad jokes on your first set of guinea pigs… Take a mental note to Google better jokes.

Second period Get email from parent unhappy with child’s grade. While pondering the reply, you learn that the projector light bulb has gone out.

Third period That kid sleeps through your entire class wakes up in time to ask a question you went over while she was sleeping. Makes jokes with her neighbors about your joke that didn’t land.

Fourth period See a student solve an algebra equation he’s been struggling with all week, remember why you got into the business

Lunch Make it to the bathroom, the glorious bathroom. Spend remainder of your lunch at the copy machine, and swallow your sandwich in 30 seconds. When asked how it was, you’re not even sure you tasted it. Roll back into your classroom with a new projector lightbulb.

Fifth period Catch students smoking in the bathroom; need to turn them into principal. It’s too bad, because one of them just got the hang of algebra. Back in class, you finally get the hang of your lesson—a couple kids even laughed at your joke. Personal high five. Another student refuses to leave your class because he hates sixth period; make time for a quick private chat.

Sixth period Call kid’s mom during your free period, who insists her child is smarter than that. Luckily, you have Gradeable so all her work and information is ready to show her parent what’s going on in class. Jet across the school to cover a teacher’s class.

Seventh period Write blog post during study hall to stay connected with students and parents. Join edchats on Twitter even though you’d rather be lesson planning. Think about how a student in your fourth period zoned out; Google other strategies. Come across one on how to differentiate instruction for increased student engagement.

2 PM Faculty meeting: learn about changes to the testing schedule; chat with other teachers about how to prepare the smoking students for the test, grumble about what else you could be doing instead of the meeting.

3 PM Manage to back in your seat and the kids are gone. Peace and quiet. Turn on your Pandora and start lesson planning. Put together packet for the smoking algebra student who just got suspended.

4 PM Pick up more leftover pencils, paper pieces, and love notes. Entertain a fleeting thought about going to the gym.

5 PM Attend students’ tennis match.

5:45 PM Swing by Walmart to pick up some school supplies.

6 PM Have the same dinner you’ve had three times already this week, because you are too exhausted to come up with something better and chicken nuggets and tater tots.

7 PM Watch “Cosmos” and start dreaming up new lesson plans.

8 PM Log into Gradeable to check how your students are doing, thanking the heavens that menacing bag of ungraded papers no longer needs to come home with you.

9 PM Realize it’s wayyy past your bedtime.

Looking to catch some breaks during your day? Check us out at www.gradeable.com to see how we can help you! As always, thank you, teachers, for all that you do. 



ProTip Wednesday: 12 Ways for Teachers to Treat Themselves


teacher treats

We’re going strong for Teacher Appreciation Month and we can’t forget an incredibly important teacher tip: treat yourself! We put together a budget-friendly list for both our female and male teachers so there’s something for everyone. The first step of Teacher Appreciation is to appreciate you, the teacher.

1. Treat Yourself tote

What better way to remind yourself to relax than to carry around a tote? Kate Spade has this reusable tote bag for just $16.

teacher treats kate spade tote



2. Get that massage

You’ve been passing by Massage Envy everyday, so why not take the plunge? Many locations offer a teacher discount, so be sure to call and confirm. (via Thought Catalog)

3. Indulge in your favorite T.V. shows

We’ve heard of teachers catching up with their favorite shows through grading marathons but on those really bad days, turn on the Hulu and watch television in a way Olivia Pope would approve of. (via Thought Catalog)

4. Make a new gym playlist

Making time to get to the gym after a long day of tutoring and after school supervision is hard, but putting together a new playlist for a good workout is incentive to get going! Here are some resources to get your started: (via Self Magazine)

5. Go to a museum—from home

Google Art Project was created to enable viewers to virtually tour museums’ galleries where “museum-goers” could literally “walk-through” the galleries, which is powered by Google’s Street View technology. (via Self Magazine)

6. Put plants and flowers in every room

There is something calming about having nature in a concrete jungle. Even if you can’t easily frolic in the meadows, you can always smell the flowers. (via Thought Catalog)

7. Turn off your phone

It’s time to unplug. It’s great to plop down and go through your Instagram feed, but you can also just turn off your phone. You’ve been going through sensory overload all day— we promise the phantom tremors will stop soon. (via Thought Catalog)

8. Ice. Cream.

teacher ice cream

(via Thought Catalog)

9. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for

We can start: We’re grateful for our teachers. (That’s you!) Starting a journal or even just a list of paper of all the positive things that happened or what you are grateful for will bring a smile to your face in under 60 seconds. (via Thought Catalog)

10. Go to a coffee shop and find a nook to read a novel or two

Instead of going straight to Facebook, go straight to your favorite coffee shop and grab a latte and a book to feed your mind. (via Parenting)

11. Sit outside and just absorb

I personally liked to find a park where there’s a lot of activity and simply sit on the bench and soak in the noises that was not my classroom. Many people find that absolute calm and quiet is also helpful.

teacher relax nature

12. Dim the lights, put on some John Mayer

Create your own quiet room by shutting the lights and closing the curtains. Turn on John Mayer (or your favorite relaxation songs) and close your eyes. Here are some favorite songs the Gradeable Team relaxes to:

Looking for more ways to treat yourself? Sign-up with Gradeable and see how much more time you can have to yourself at www.gradeable.com

try gradeable


Behind the Scenes of Gradeable’s Stop-Motion Teacher Appreciation Video

Guest post by film maker Kavita Lokchander

teacher appreciation stop-motion video set

Though our animation is a little over a minute long, it is comprised of over 1,100 photos captured over the span of 6 weeks. This means that we made the characters move incrementally over 1,100 frames to achieve the fluid gestures and movements you see in the video. The set, which was built on my desk at home, was almost entirely hand crafted out out of different types of paper – birch straws for the trees, multi-colored napkins for the flowers, cardstock for the grass, etc.

teacher appreciation stop-motion animation materials

The sky background you see in the final scene is comprised of bunches of white tissue paper and tree silhouettes made of black construction paper squished between two pieces of plexiglass and draped in sheer blue fabric. We lit the sky background from behind using Christmas lights and a desk lamp to give illusion of sunlight, depth and realistic clouds.

teacher appreciation stop-motion animation background

It was a lot of fun seeing the set come together, but the most fun (and sometimes the most frustrating) part was animating the paperclips and the growing plants. We used several different methods to keep the characters and plants standing upright, including magnets, wire, Blu-tack, and paper supports, all of which we Photoshopped out later. In a particular stroke of genius I broke apart an old whiteboard and placed the thin magnetic surface under the green “grass” layer in order to use magnets to support the growing trees and flowers. When crafting supports for your characters and other moving parts, the goal is to create a lot of control over the movement, so that when you put all the frames together, the movement looks fluid and not choppy.

teacher appreciation stop-motion animation supports

People have been asking us why we used paper clips as characters in our Teacher Appreciation video.  Well, they’re super cute, but that’s not the main reason. Simply put, it is easy to overlook the hidden potential of a paperclip. At first glance they’re pretty ordinary…small, expendable implements of some person’s desk organization strategy. But though they are often trapped in boxes and hidden away under stacks of paperwork, they are actually versatile, adaptable and flexible—tools of infinite possibilities.  There’s more to a paper clip than meets the eye.

teacher appreciation stop-motion animation paper clip

We chose paperclips to represent the teacher and student characters in the animation to celebrate how teachers are fighting to break through expectations and challenge norms that often box in students. Now more than ever before, teachers are collaborating and innovating to improve the student experience. By creating PLNs, embracing technology, sharing best practices, not to mention putting in hours and hours of extra time and effort every week, teachers are changing the game.  We so deeply appreciate that, you were our inspiration and we made this video to thank you. We hope you love it!

If you have any more questions about how its made, or would like to do a similar project with your class, email us at hello@gradeable.com and we would be happy to help. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Learn more about the things we do for the love of teachers at www.gradeable.com.


ProTip Wednesday: 10 Gifts Teachers Will Love

gifts teachers love

Part of Teacher Appreciation Week is all about showing your favorite person some teacher love. Put that #1 Teacher Mug away and try to give them one of these (non-Pinterest) gifts instead:

1. When you need to speak louder

No need to scream the directions for the third time anymore— instead, use a portable voice amplifier. You’ll feel better at the end the day, trust us. (via Edutopia)

2. When you need stickier Post-It Notes

We’ve all had the computer where it’s a rainbow of Post-It Notes but they start to fall by the end of the day and tape seems to be counter-productive. Use this Post-It Note tape instead to ensure 100% stickiness.

teacher gift post-it adhesive

via KK

3. When you need scissors and tape, but only one hand

teacher gift  scissors tape

via Fancy

4. When you need sandwich-safe Tupperware

Sometimes Tupperware wasn’t made for a three-tiered sandwich, so why not make the lid more flexible?

teacher gift  sandwich

via Fancy

5. When you really need a nap. At your desk.

There were times when we’ve all considered the idea of locking our door and rolling out the bed under the desk. This vibrating neck pillow helps you avoid whatever 20-year-old bacteria and lost student papers that exist down there.

teacher gift pillow

via Fancy

6. When you lose all of your pens, all the time

When you start your day, you had five color, beautiful pens. By the end of sixth period, you’re borrowing students’ pens. Keep it together with this handy dandy rubber band.

teacher gift  rubberband

via Quirky

7. When you’re scared of a computer cord fire

Keep your computer cord in one safe space, away from children and other fire hazards by using this wind up tool for your laptop charger.

teacher gift laptop charger

via Quirky

8. When you have to reach under your desk to find your iPad charger. Again.

You just wish that your iPad/iPhone charger stays on your desk, but gravity had other ideas. Keep it organized and stable with this cord organizer.

teacher gift  cord

via Quirky

9. On when you wish you could remove the stapler base

Bulletin board decoration is no joke, and there are instances where you wished you could just remove the stapler’s base so you can get to the middle of the board. Never fear, this stapler is the answer.

teacher gift stapler

via Quirky

10. When you run out of clothes to wear

Teachers will have a lot of school logo t-shirts and polos, but why not give it a twist? Give your favorite teacher something that celebrates why you’re everyday hero.

Give your favorite teacher the gift of time. Find out more at www.gradeable.com.


What Does it Take to be a Teacher? An Ode to Teaching

teaching is my calling superman teacher appreciation

What does it take to be a teacher?
“Summers off?” they say. “That sounds easy.”
If people knew how much it took to teach,
our guess is that they would feel queazy.

You’re a coach and a guide,
helping students along the rocky road of learning.
Making the best of defeats
and celebrating good-grade earning.

You’re apparently a statistician
checking the data to see what you’re missing.
Everything from taking attendance to comparing test scores—
sometimes while angry parents are hissing.

You’re a parent to your kids,
except they aren’t your offspring.
You’ve had years of training;
what you offer can’t be found on Bing.

You’ve got the patience of a saint
repeating what you said again and again.
Though you were clear the first time,
your students were busy hitting “send.”

You are obsessed with your subject
making mundane topics come alive.
Remember that time you made a music video
to help them understand Catcher and the Rye?

You have a way of understanding
no two students are the same.
Relating to dozens of young lives
because empathy is your game.

Your work continues long after the bell rings—
from PD to staff meetings to checking with parents.
Not to mention lesson planning and entering grades—
those ungraded papers don’t care that you’re spent.

Still, you find a way to stay flexible and organized—
Color coding, printed labels, and name tags for all.
Oh what’s that a fire drill?
Good thing well-trained students are ready for roll call!

Teaching is the highest form of understanding,
even though it comes from the heart.
Besides being as intuitive as a yoga instructor
you’re also wicked smart.

So when someone says they know what you do,
just because he or she has been to school—
Dare them to spend one day in front of a class
then they might understand why teachers truly rule!

We know your day doesn’t end when the bell rings. Find out how you can cut down on the time you spend grading at www.gradeable.com