Imagination has changed the way Stacey Foskey teaches.
As an avid Disney fan, Foskey is inspired by the magic and immersion of Disney parks — inspiration she brings back to the classroom to teach her students at Seminole County Public Schools in Sanford, Florida.
Now in her 15th year as an educator, Foskey teaches 6th grade science with immersive classroom transformations, from crime scene investigations to journeys in space. This led Disney to pick her as one of 50 inspiring teachers celebrated at Disney World’s Imagination Campus this past Memorial Day, a dream come true for Foskey.
She also has a lifelong passion for travel, developed in childhood as a self-described “Air Force Brat” and cultivated in adulthood as a mother and travel planner. Foskey has multiple specialty travel certifications, including the College of Disney Knowledge, the Royal Caribbean University and more.
While at Disney, Teach & Travel chatted with Foskey about her story and what teaching with imagination means to her, along with advice for new educators!
Tell us about how you use imagination in your classroom.
I wrote my essay (for the 50 teachers contest) about how I do classroom transformation. I’ve done different ones — we’ve had a construction zone one time, my kids had little construction helmets. I’ve done a crime scene investigation. I’ve done a space one where they were all astronauts.
I just feel like, my kids are so into their phones that I try to get them pulled away from it and give them this immersive experience that’s imaginative, so they’re not having to sit in front of a screen. And I’ve noticed that they’re so engaged when I do it, because they have this buy-in that they appreciate. Their communication skills with each other improve, everything improves. It’s amazing.
How did you start with the transformations?
I read a book about someone who had done it at a high school level. So I kind of did small ones when I taught elementary school, like, they were surgeons one day. And then when I moved up to sixth grade science, it was a lot easier to plan them, because I’m just teaching one subject. I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna go out and give it my all,” especially for sixth grade. They’re still trying to figure out who they are and they’re at this awkward stage. I really want them to enjoy coming to school and not dread it.
How did you handle the difficulties that came with COVID?
You had to take it a day at a time. You had to kind of go with the punches, go whatever came your way, and do it with a smile on your face. I never wanted my kids to think of school any differently. I wanted to be that one safe place where they didn’t have to worry about COVID and the outside world. And so, the masks were a struggle, and getting them to wear masks, but it was definitely an interesting couple of years. I was actually fortunate, I didn’t have to do virtual for very long. But I did have to social distance my kids. So it was harder to do the classroom transformations and group work. I definitely had to work around finding a way to get them to still talk and communicate.
What’s your advice for teachers starting out right now?
Stay focused on your why, and take it day by day. If you want to start bringing more imagination and hands-on things into your classroom, start small. I honestly started small with colored tablecloths and plastic helmets for the kids. It’s grown over the years to where I have stuff I can reuse every year for them. But even just laying out tablecloths and doing something small, the kids’ imaginations can soar with it.
What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?
I feel like this is the first year where I’ve really got my classroom transformation to the next level, so I’m excited to continue those and try to come up with new ones that you my kids can get excited about!
Finally, what has been your highlight of the Disney Imagination trip so far?
I just got to be a Grand Marshal in the parade. Talk about a Disney nerd’s dream come true. I am the biggest Disney fanatic you will ever meet, and that was a dream of mine. I probably, might have been, crying.