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Playful teaching method helps German teacher, her students excel

Pam Pennington leads freshmen Chandler Yeary and Tyreke Padgett through a scene they were acting out during her German 1A class at Scott High School (Kenton County). Pennington was named the 2013 Outstanding Teacher from the Kentucky World Language Association. Photo by Amy Wallot, Nov. 25, 2013

Pam Pennington leads freshmen Chandler Yeary and Tyreke Padgett through a scene they were acting out during her German 1A class at Scott High School (Kenton County). Pennington was named the 2013 Outstanding Teacher from the Kentucky World Language Association.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Nov. 25, 2013

By Matthew Tungate
matthew.tungate@education.ky.gov

Although Pam Pennington teaches German at Scott High School (Kenton County), she gets her students when they are about 18 months old – at least in terms of their language proficiency. As such, she tells them stories, getting the students to fill in details with their target vocabulary. Sometimes they will draw the story or even act it out.

It is a technique called TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling) that Pennington, the Kentucky World Language Association’s 2013 Outstanding Teacher, learned 13 years ago. As the students learn more vocabulary, their “age” goes up, she said. So Pennington doesn’t expect a lot of language from her students until the middle of their first year.

“It really helps connect in their brain, ‘OK, I don’t have to be good at this yet. It’s coming.” Every now and then they ask, ‘How old are we now?’ They understand that,” she said.

Because of that, Pennington stops short of immersing her students in German. She tops out at about 80 percent for her higher-level classes, the 19-year teaching veteran said. Yet proficiency has skyrocketed, she said. Continue Reading

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District working to increase number of National Board Certified teachers

Floyd County school district Superintendent Henry Webb is looking to grow the number of National Board Certified Teachers in his district with the help of a program that will support prospective candidates with the application process.

Floyd County school district Superintendent Henry Webb is looking to grow the number of National Board Certified Teachers in his district with the help of a program that will support prospective candidates with the application process.
Photo submitted

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

It’s been three years since the Floyd County school district has had a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), but administrators are looking to change that with the help of a program that will support prospective candidates with the application process.

“We firmly believe that building capacity is the key to organizational success for kids,” Superintendent Henry Webb said. “And in hiring the very best people when we get a chance to hire, we believe the NBCT program is rigorous, practical and authentic. It will only serve to make our teachers even better for our kids.”

While hiring NBCT teachers (Webb said the district is changing job applications to include an inquiry regarding national board certification.) is important for Floyd County Schools’ teacher growth goals, it’s equally critical that his current staff members seek out the certification.

Currently, there are nine NBCT teachers in the district.

Ted George, district director of human resources, said some teachers have expressed concerns with the application process.

“There’s a perception that it’s very difficult and time consuming,” said George, who added that some teachers were hesitant to apply without a reassurance of necessary resources being made available to them. Continue Reading

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Robot breathes new life into learning

Sebastian Saylor and Gabbie Stinson watch KATE (Kentucky’s Automated Technology Educator) perform a routine about the water cycle. The Bullitt Lick Middle School students programmed KATE in preparation for an elementary school presentation. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 2, 2013

Sebastian Saylor and Gabbie Stinson watch KATE (Kentucky’s Automated Technology Educator) perform a routine about the water cycle. The Bullitt Lick Middle School students programmed KATE in preparation for an elementary school presentation. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 2, 2013

By Susan Riddell
Susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

When Dyllan Smith was asked if the robotics class at Bullitt Lick Middle School (Bullitt County) was his favorite class at the school, he pointed to KATE and said, “Have you ever seen anything like that?”

KATE – named as an acronym for Kentucky’s Automated Technology Educator – is a robot the school has borrowed from Murray State University. KATE can sing, dance, discuss movies and most importantly help students learn about robotics and programming.

“KATE has been a great way to give the kids a real-world robotics experience,” said teacher Shaun McIntosh. “In the time we’ve had KATE, their knowledge of robotics had grown so much.”

Principal Robert Fulk said KATE has been a great experience for students at his school.

“I am happy to see any of our students engaged in authentic, meaningful learning,” he said. “At Bullitt Lick Middle, we provide as much individualized instruction as possible for our students. We are happy to be able to have KATE available to kids who want to do some real world, hands-on work that is meaningful and also very fun. KATE is a great example for the kids involved, and any in our building, how learning can be and should be fun.” Continue Reading

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KBE, KDE focus on school funding as 2014 General Assembly gets underway

Kentucky School for the Blind 7th-grade student Heather Anthony uses a Braille typewriter while working on a poetry project. Funding for capital projects at KSB and the Kentucky School for the Deaf is a priority in the Kentucky Board of Education's legislative agenda. Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 11, 2013

Kentucky School for the Blind 7th-grade student Heather Anthony uses a Braille typewriter while working on a poetry project. Funding for capital projects at KSB and the Kentucky School for the Deaf is a priority in the Kentucky Board of Education’s legislative agenda.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 11, 2013

By Tracy Goff-Herman
tracy.herman@education.ky.gov

Most of us kick off the New Year with a list of resolutions. Many of us resolve to save money, eat right and exercise more – perennial favorites on resolution lists. The Kentucky General Assembly also has a list of returning issues that will once again feature prominently in the upcoming 2014 Regular Session. The state budget, pension shortfalls, gambling, and charter schools are all back on the table.

For the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) and the Department of Education (KDE), the focus in the upcoming long session is on the budget. The Consensus Forecast Group, the official body charged with producing revenue projections for the upcoming biennium, hasn’t met to finalize budget numbers yet. But the discussions around the budget do not look hopeful, with the state Budget Director Continue Reading

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Conducting code in classrooms

Director of Awesome Inc Garrett Ebel helps senior Elisha Mutayongwa create variables and functions in JavaScript while visiting Tates Creek High School (Fayette County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 9, 2013

Director of Awesome Inc Garrett Ebel helps senior Elisha Mutayongwa create variables and functions in JavaScript while visiting Tates Creek High School (Fayette County).
Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 9, 2013

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Last week, when Nick Such asked students in the Tates Creek High School (Fayette County) auditorium to raise their hands is they’ve ever written a line of code, about five students put their hands up.

When he asked them again at the end of the hour, practically all of the 120 students in the room put a hand up.

Introducing students to coding is what the Hour of Code is all about. The weeklong event, which ran Dec. 9-15, was an effort to get 5 million students to spend one hour learning to code.

“Learning to code had a huge trajectory on my life,” said Such, who is director of labs and co-founder for Awesome Inc U, a Lexington-based code school. Awesome Inc U offers hands-on classes that help people learn how to create software.

Such said he started coding in 3rd grade. Awesome Inc U’s other co-founder, Brian Raney, began coding in middle school. “It didn’t take me long to figure out it was a great way to make money,” Raney said. Continue Reading

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Next-Generation Science Standards take learning to the next level

X'Zashea Mayes prepares a solution during Simone Parker's AP Chemistry class at Trigg County High School. Mayes is planning on studying medicine or chemistry at the University of Louisville. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 15, 2013

X’Zashea Mayes prepares a solution during Simone Parker’s AP Chemistry class at Trigg County High School. Mayes is planning on studying medicine or chemistry at the University of Louisville.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 15, 2013

By Susan Riddell
Susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

When Simone Parker was a lab technician performing basic chemical analysis on hazardous and non-hazardous waste at an incinerator in Calvert City, she was using skills that she learned in college and refined while on the job.

Now as a chemistry teacher at Trigg County High School, she is tasked with making sure her students master those real-world skills before ever receiving a high school diploma.

“All I did was learn theory,” Parker said of her experience as a chemistry student early on. “There were several opportunities to engage in scientific thinking if I looked for them (like science fairs or partnering with college professors for research).

“Now, my students are asked to plan and carry out investigations and design solutions to problems that they have determined. Students need to think scientifically, be engaged in science and do science,” Parker added. “The Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS) give us the tools and the connections to make this a reality for our students.”

Parker, who has been teaching for 13 years after eventually running an inorganic metals laboratory, was one of many Kentucky teachers Continue Reading

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Work Ethic program teaches students secrets to success in the workplace

Brooke Whitlow helps 8th-grade student Derek Grant prepare for an interview for a position on the school's weekly newscast at East Hardin Middle School (Hardin County). Grant was interested in the AV technician position. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 21, 2013

Brooke Whitlow helps 8th-grade student Derek Grant prepare for an interview for a position on the school’s weekly newscast at East Hardin Middle School (Hardin County). Grant was interested in the AV technician position.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 21, 2013

By Matthew Tungate
matthew.tungate@education.ky.gov

Beginning this year, students who graduate from Hardin County school district’s high schools with a Work Ethic Certification are guaranteed an interview with participating businesses.

Dan Robbins, principal of the Hardin County Early College and Career Center, said more than 25 business partners have agreed to interview certified students for jobs for which they are qualified. Students may even be able to reserve the interview until after they graduate from college, opening them to higher level jobs, he said.

“The people in our community want to be involved so heavily (with schools). It almost brings tears to your eyes,” Robbins said. “They know about the economic impact this will have on our area by having people that are ready to work, that we have a workforce that is here so that when new companies are looking to expand and grow, Hardin County is definitely a place for them.”

Starting this year, high school seniors can elect to participate in the Work Ethic Certification program. They must demonstrate proficiency in eight standards to earn the certification. Combined with the criteria and standards they must meet, Work Ethic Certification participants are taught the Junior Achievement curriculum on career success from community volunteers.

John Wright, community relations specialist for the Hardin County school district, said teaching students about work ethic has “kind of always been on our radar.”

But it got new life when a group of 30 school district and business community members visited Elkhorn Crossing School (Scott County) last year looking for ideas for the Early College and Career Center, which is now under construction, he said. Continue Reading

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Transitional courses paying off at East Carter High School

Courtney Martin discusses The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie with sophomore Clayton Salyers during her critical thinking class at East Carter High School. Students were reading books dealing with addiction and discussing how it is a community problem. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 17, 2013

Courtney Martin discusses The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie with sophomore Clayton Salyers during her critical thinking class at East Carter High School. Students were reading books dealing with addiction and discussing how it is a community problem.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 17, 2013

 

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Considering Kentucky’s recent passing of the graduation bill, Senate Bill 97, you wouldn’t expect to see school faculty happy for students who leave a classroom before a course has ended.

But that’s the case for a handful of classes at East Carter High School (Carter County), where students who exit transitional courses before the year are much closer to being ready and prepared for college opportunities.

“Transitional courses have made a significant difference in our state accountability, college- and career-readiness (CCR) and graduation rates,” guidance counselor Sheila Porter said. “I think that students are realizing the importance of their classroom work and assessment scores.”

Since a transitional course emphasis has been in place at the school –11 classes spread across varying grade levels in all – East Carter High has been earned a Distinguished classification on state accountability and earned increases in its CCR rate (80.4 percent) and a graduation rate (98.3 percent). Continue Reading

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A heroic effort

As part of its Superhero Training Academy, South Heights Elementary School (Henderson County) students earn the right to wear a superhero cape or mask at school in a variety of ways, including being a strong leader or showing determination. Those who meet school-designated success goals can earn capes for up to a week at a time. Photo submitted

As part of its Superhero Training Academy, South Heights Elementary School (Henderson County) students earn the right to wear a superhero cape or mask at school in a variety of ways, including being a strong leader or showing determination. Those who meet school-designated success goals can earn capes for up to a week at a time. Photo submitted

By Susan Riddell
Susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Most superheroes have secret identities. South Heights Elementary School (Henderson County) simply wanted a new one.

As the school was facing academic struggles several years ago, administrators decided to create that new identity. Teachers soon pushed students to be more determined in daily instruction and on assessments. Those efforts paid off, and the school’s new identity eventually became “The 1199.”

“South Heights is located at 1199 Madison St. in Henderson, Ky. It used to be an address associated with subpar standards and low expectations from parents and community members,” intermediate teacher Megan Durham said.

Thanks to what Durham calls a steady diligent effort to change, South Heights Elementary has that new identity, one associated with innovation and a strong culture, she said. To build on that innovation and culture, school administrators have created another identify for South Heights Elementary: The 1199 Superhero Training Academy.

This academy instills a superhero mindset into students that they can do anything. Superhero costumes are common at the school now, as are standards-aligned lessons with superhero themes. Continue Reading

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Q&A with Terri Grief, president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians

Terri Grief

Terri Grief

Terri Grief, school media librarian at Reidland High School (McCracken County), has been elected as the 2014-2015 president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). She will serve as the president-elect for AASL during 2013-14.

Grief has served as president of the Kentucky Library Association (KLA) and president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL) (formerly KSMA). KSMA recognized Grief as the “Outstanding School Librarian” in 2001, and the McCracken County Education Association awarded her “Teacher of the Year” in 2002.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in library professional organizations and how that has helped you be a better school librarian.

A: Most school librarians are an “only,” so we have no group at our building level that gives us support. If I had not been involved in my professional associations, I would not have the skill set that I have now. Students often ask me if I learned computer skills in my college classes. I tell them that the only computers that I knew about in college were as big as a room and there was a card with holes in it that somehow a computer read! I remember hearing about the Internet at a KLA/KASL Fall Conference, and I couldn’t wait to get back to school to work on a dial-up connection so I could get students information that I didn’t have in the library. I can’t think where my students would be if I hadn’t kept up with new ideas, technologies and ways to reach them that I’ve learned about due to my involvement in my professional associations. Being a member of KLA and KASL has allowed me to have “experts” at my fingertips, from public librarians and academic librarians and the whole state of Kentucky’s school librarians. Learning what other librarians across the nation are providing for their students is the best way that I know of to give the students in Kentucky the same benefits.

Q: What is/was your platform during the election process?

A: I truly feel that school librarians impact students’ lives in ways that aren’t always measured on a test. We help students become lifelong lovers of learning and reading. We encourage students to be inquisitive, to be critical thinkers and to love reading for enjoyment as well as to learn about things that interest them. We don’t seem to want to tell anyone about it. We have to become more proactive in telling administrators, school board members, parents and teachers that we are an important wheel in the education of our kids. My platform this year is all about advocacy and how we have to be able to brag a little on ourselves, not in a self- serving way but because we really do impact the well-being of our nation!

Q: What are your big goals during your presidency?

A: I hope to give librarians throughout the nation the tools they need to become more proactive. Many states are losing librarians due to budget cuts, and we really aren’t peripheral. We can’t be replaced with computers or with aides. My biggest goal is to help reverse this trend. Librarians have to begin speaking out about what we do and why it is so important. With this, I want to grow the membership of our professional association. We are so much more powerful as a group than we are when we stand alone.

Q: How do you think Kentucky school libraries are viewed by other states?

A: Very positively! We have a good reputation for having librarians in every school, even though that is reversing here as well.

Q: How can Kentucky school librarians become involved in local, state and national professional organizations?

A: Join! It isn’t expensive when you look at dividing it up. KLA and ALA are the “mother” organizations to the school library division. Joining those larger associations gives us contacts with librarians who are going to serve our students as college students and as adults in the real world. Joining our specific division helps every librarian in the nation because those associations have contacts outside to the library world, like PTA and NEA. Why should they? We have the duty to belong. If legislation passes that helps librarians, it helps all librarians, not just those who are members.

QYou are famous for reading hundreds of books each year in order to match the right books to your students. What are a few of your favorites from this past year?

A: I don’t really read HUNDREDS, I read at least 100. This year, I love The Right and the Real, I’ll Be There and Boy, Nobody. I could go on and on, but I will stop with three!

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I want librarians to realize that we are important to every child that we touch. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the extra duties that we take on and all the other things that go along with being a school librarian, but we need to remember that we are special, and we are vital to a well-rounded education for the kids of Kentucky.

 

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