The Gravana Team is made up of three educators who are passionate about student learning. Amanda Olinger has been teaching English to 7-12 grade students for the past ten years. With high expectations and rigorous teaching style, she pushes students to perform at their highest level. Her experience goes beyond the classroom. She has also worked for the SD Department of Education and curriculum companies across the nation creating, editing, and publishing curriculum and test items. Brad Hartzler has been an English and Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Harrisburg North Middle School in Sioux Falls, SD, for four years. He majored in English Education from The University of Sioux Falls with minors in English Language Learners and Communication Studies and Theatre. During his tenure, Brad learned a lot about what it takes to teach in concrete ways the intricacies and grammatical rules of the English language, especially to students whose first language is something other than English to struggling students. Kelly Andrews has been teaching 7th grade English Language Arts at Harrisburg North Middle School for the last three years. She loves communicating, connecting, and collaborating with others. She has a heart for writing and loves to share that passion with her students. She is a coach by nature, and she utilizes her coaching mindset to encourage, support, and drive her students to reach their highest potential.
We have created all of our material to be engaging and student-centered. Each of our lessons provides an invigorating anticipatory set, student handout, multiple practices, two quizzes, and a fun writing prompt where students can demonstrate their skills. Gravana is a versatile curriculum that can be used in any teaching style: personalized, customized, traditional, etc....you name it.
Amanda Olinger received the Teacher of Distinction Award from College Board, National Board Certified Teacher, and she is on the South Dakota ELA Advisory Council. As part of this recognition, Mrs. Olinger will become a member of the SpringBoard teacher advisory council. She will have the opportunity to review new materials, participate in pilot opportunities, and attend the SpringBoard Pre-Conference and AP Annual Conference.
After a frustrating semester, we knew our approach to teaching needed to change. Our students were struggling to communicate clearly and correctly through their writing. We started brainstorming how we could make a significant difference in our students' writing--something that would prepare them for high school, for college, and for that matter, life. We dreamed about a classroom where students not only loved to write but also were capable of writing well. We knew that dream could not become a reality until our students understood grammar and mechanics. Together we designed a pathway that nests fundamental grammar skills within a logical progression that improves writing. We immediately implemented the change in our own classrooms. We began to create invigorating grammar lessons, fun writing prompts, and we offered tailored feedback for our students. We found this system to be effective, so we ran with it; the results were astonishing. Our students enjoyed knowing grammar skills, and they loved to write using their new arsenal of grammar tools. Other teachers noticed the change, and they began to ask what we were doing differently. We couldn’t keep this idea to ourselves, and we knew it had to expand beyond our classrooms. We started talking with other teachers, administrators, and community members and concluded that there was a clear need; thus, we created Gravana. Gravana started as a small summer tutoring program, it expanded to a licensed classroom and district curriculum, and it is now expanding to an online interface (a learning management ecosystem). Gravana looks forward to expanding its influence in South Dakota, the greater Midwest, and the world.
Amanda Olinger: item writer for Smarter Balanced Consortium, Range-finding for McGraw-Hill assessing and scoring student writing, Resource creator and reviewer for Smarter Balanced Digital Library, and Advanced ELA instructor for seven years. Brad Hartzler: Google Certified Teacher Certification (2015).