Bringing Innovation to the Classroom: Natalie Deppe, Teacher Spotlight

“I’m going to be an uncle,” yelled one of Natalie Deppe’s students from the back of the classroom. Natalie had created a word scramble so her students could find out that she was pregnant. After the class solved the puzzle that said your teacher is having a baby, they all started jumping up and down.

This is a true example of the compassion and respect that Natalie embodies as a teacher. She creates an environment where students feel as if they are family and that they belong to her classroom and school community.

Natalie Deppe’s classroom is full of creativity and innovation. She wants her students to learn and be better every day after they leave her classroom. When asked how she likes to spend her spare time, she simply replied with, “I spend it thinking about what I can do better or what activity I can do next to help my kids learn.”

At times her room has been transformed to provide hands-on learning rather than just read the text. She knows that students learn best when they actually get to participate in the process. An Escape Room was used to get ready for testing (NWEA). An assembly line activity was used during a history lesson about Henry Ford. Kids were able to learn how a car was created and how each person on the assembly line brings an important part to the creation of a car. Their classroom was also transformed into a hospital so that students could perform “surgery” on nonfiction texts. These are just a few of the examples that happen daily.

Deppe always wanted to be a teacher ever since she can remember. Her past teachers always inspired her and she wanted to have a similar impact on others. One of her defining moments of clarity was when a student said, Miss Deppe, what do you have up your sleeve for us today? That did it for me. I finally had students that wanted to be in school because they wanted to see what I was going to teach next. This was rewarding and so great,” Deppe commented.

Deppe took an alternate route through Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University to obtain her teaching degree and loved every minute of it. After graduation, she started to apply everywhere and landed an interview with Choice Schools Associates for a Three Oaks teaching position.

When she interviewed at Three Oaks, it felt like family from the beginning. Monecia Vasbinder, principal at Three Oaks Public School Academy, made a positive impact from the first time they met. Natalie said she has been a great inspiration and supporter.

“Natalie creates classroom transformations and finds ways to immerse the students in a learning experience that makes learning fun for her as the teacher and the children. She believes in her students and their ability to achieve. Many people say they have high expectations, but Natalie lives it in everything she does in her classroom,” said Monecia Vasbinder.

Deppe is also a life long learner and is always seeking opportunities to be a better educator in her classroom. She even uses social media when appropriate. She found out about a dynamic conference through Instagram called Get Your Teach On (#getyourteachon). She raised enough money through a GoFundMe page to attend the conference and came back with tons of energy and ideas that she shared with staff. The conference introduced new and engaging concepts, activities and guides on how to teach better with today’s student. The conference was motivating and she hopes to go again in the future.

Three Oaks is the right fit for Deppe and she loves that the staff is her second family. “The staff here is second to none. The teachers that I work alongside are incredible. I love watching them teach and I enjoy learning from them and using their skills in my own practice. I love that so many have been serving this area and still see the purpose and magic behind teaching. I also have so much support here. I feel like administration believes in me and does what they can to support my teaching. It’s a great feeling!”