Traci Sikkink’s Biography

 Traci Sikkink is currently an entrepreneur who owns her own business in Los Angeles, California. She is developing intellectual properties that were inspired by her students while she was teaching in the elementary level in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD.)

 Traci received her teaching credentials as a teacher in the State of California in 1997 and after only several months of substitute teaching, by 1998 she had her very own classroom in the LAUSD school district in South Central LA (a primarily Latino/Spanish-speaking community) as a Title 1 teacher. (Title 1 teachers provide extra assistance for students who are working below grade level in math or reading. It is a government program that adheres to strict guidelines.)

 What made Traci’s first year of teaching so interesting was that it occurred in the year 1998 - the year that the state of California passed the “English Language in Public School’s Initiative Statute” (Proposition 227) which required all public school instruction to be conducted in English.

 Traci’s very first classroom at Miramonte Elementary consisted of a combined class of 20 second and third graders who primarily spoke Spanish while Traci only spoke English. The first few days of instruction are what Traci says were the biggest “challenge” with some of her students not even showing up on the second day because they didn’t understand or speak English and were frustrated/confused.

 By the end of her first week, however, Traci and her 20 students had “bonded” and Traci found a way to communicate with these English Language Learners (ELL) by writing and creating curriculum based on teaching via “visual arts” and hand gestures. Traci discovered that teaching with hand gestures played a hugely significant role in the teaching and learning process.

 She immediately noticed that her ELL students also – in return – used hand gestures – and that began their path of communicating and expressing themselves in the initial weeks. With both Traci and her students using hand gestures and the “visual arts,” it led to less frustration by her students, the beginning of coherent and complete classroom participation, and the motivation for the opening of a pathway for true learning to begin. Within a few short months Traci’s students were speaking fluently in English and by the end of the school year her students’ class received one of the highest testing scores achieved at the school.

 During Traci’s years as an educator, she effectively developed and implemented print-rich learning environments for her English Language Learners. She was honored with several awards as an educator, including an “Excellence in Art Instruction” award by the Department of Water and Power, which resulted not only in her school garnering beautification funds but college scholarships for her students as well. She was further distinguished as an outstanding educator when she was featured in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Spotlight” publication for her exemplary instruction in a multimedia art contest. Traci was also actively involved in her school’s professional development department not only as a member of the school’s District Structured Reading Program (DSRP) but as a peer coach helping new teachers establish effective ELL room environments. Additionally, she received a “Principal’s Award” for her ongoing commitment to beautifying her school through the arts.

 Traci was eager to broaden her growth as an educator and deepen her knowledge of mathematics curriculum, not only for her students, but for her colleagues as well during her school’s mandated staff development courses when the new school year would begin. Thus during her time off in the summer of 1999 she volunteered to attend UCLA’s “Mathematics Project for Emerging Teacher Leaders.” After attending several of these UCLA Math Projects Traci was discovered and noticed by the UCLA instructors as an outstanding educator and soon found herself teaching other teachers at these UCLA Math Projects. Traci’s strong work ethic combined with her commitment to education and her ability to create curriculum by “thinking outside of the box” eventually led to a full-time position at UCLA in the summer of 2001 just after she had earned her Master’s Degree in “Education: Curriculum and Instruction.”

 While working at UCLA, Traci was a coordinator and instructor of mathematics professional development institutes for elementary school teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. At UCLA, Traci worked under the umbrella of “LUCI Math” (Local School Districts, UCLA, County Offices of Education, Institutes in Mathematics) which represented a comprehensive professional development program designed to improve classroom practice by increasing teacher competence and confidence in the mathematics they teach. As a coordinator and instructor, Traci was responsible not only for implementing and training facilitators and educators on the latest research in mathematics instruction but was also heavily involved in the writing of mathematics staff development curricula, which aligned with the State of California’s Mathematics Standards.

 Around this time, Traci began presenting workshops on “how-to” crafts at math conferences in which she demonstrated how to integrate crafts with key mathematical standards/concepts. She presented her crafts throughout Los Angeles, including the UCLA Mathematics Project and LACTMA (Los Angeles City Teachers of Mathematics Instruction.) With crafts as her new “niche,” Traci began writing for craft publications. Her crafts have been featured in numerous publications, including Highlights for Children, Clubhouse, Guideposts for Kids, Great American Crafts, Woman’s Day, and Skipping Stones. At this time Traci’s ongoing commitment to creating crafts for children caught the attention of the editors of Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market. In the 2002 edition of their annual publication they featured a four-page article on Traci titled, “A Crafty Way to Break into Children’s Publishing.” For several years Traci even had a non-profit arts and crafts website at before she became inspired to start her own business full time based on children’s properties that were inspired by her students in the elementary classroom.

 Background: Traci was born in New Orleans in 1969. She was the fourth born girl. The following year her mother gave birth to a baby boy, which completed this family of five. Traci and her four siblings and parents lived in New Orleans and suburbs of Chicago until her parents’ marriage ended when she was eight. Traci’s mother then moved with her five children to a suburb of Memphis called Germantown and raised them as a single parent. In Germantown Traci attended middle school (where she enjoyed being a cheerleader) and attended high school (where she was honored to be chosen as her high school’s Senior Class Beauty and Winterfest Queen.) Traci received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Memphis in 1991 with a minor in Broadcast Journalism. In 2001 she received her Master’s Degree in “Education: Curriculum and Instruction” in Los Angeles.



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