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History Teacher of the Year helps students dress for success

Students in Christina Cornelius’ class had to decide if Javon Walker, dressed as a farmer, created goods or services during an activity about producers and consumers at James E. Farmer Elementary School (Jefferson County).

Students in Christina Cornelius’ class had to decide if Javon Walker, dressed as a farmer, created goods or services during an activity about producers and consumers at James E. Farmer Elementary School (Jefferson County).
Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 27, 2013

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

A strange noise filled Missy Davis’ 5th-grade mathematics classroom at James E. Farmer Elementary (Jefferson County) one day last year. At first it sounded like an airplane, but then one of the student said something was leaking. Upon further inspection, Davis found it was coming from next door. She’s heard many strange noises coming from the classroom of 5th-grade social studies teacher Christina Cornelius, with whom she has been neighbors since the school opened in 2007.

“I opened the door to find the students wearing goggles and snorkels,” Davis said. “They were diving for artifacts. The dive site had been carefully mapped out on a grid in her classroom. There was a CD playing underwater noises. The kids had a blast, and the coordinate grid reinforced what I was teaching in math – it was a win/win.”

Cornelius’ love of experiential learning helped earn her the 2013 Kentucky History Teacher of the Year award from the Kentucky Historical Society. Tim Talbott, teacher professional development coordinator with the Kentucky Historical Society, said Cornelius’ hands-on creative approach to history with her students and use of Kentucky’s historical sites as an educational tool, both in the classroom and on field trips, were impressive factors that stood out to the judges.

Thirty-three teachers (the second-highest number in the nation) were nominated for the award in Kentucky, Talbott said. Cornelius will receive a $1,000 honorarium and will be in the running to be named 2013 National History Teacher of the Year this fall. James E. Farmer Elementary School’s library will receive a core archive of history books and educational materials from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and HISTORY network. Cornelius also will be invited to a 2014 Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar, and James E. Farmer Elementary School will be named a Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School. Continue Reading

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Full STEAM ahead

Director Tina Stevenson greets STEAM Academy (Fayette County) students as they arrive at school in the morning. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 21, 2013


Director Tina Stevenson greets STEAM Academy (Fayette County) students as they arrive at school in the morning. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 21, 2013

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

When a new school opens, decisions almost always have to be made regarding its identity. What will the mascot be? What about school colors?

For Fayette County school district’s STEAM Academy (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.), those questions became the central part of the first student lesson.

The STEAM academy opened its doors Aug. 14 to 150 freshmen, and Stevenson said teachers wasted no time in creating opportunities, starting with the school’s identity.

Homerooms spent the first three days working as a team. They couldn’t just come up with schools colors, a logo and a mascot. They had to research it.

“We studied the colors in science, logos in history, graphics in design,” Stevenson said. “Once each room turns in the assignment, students will vote on everything.”

One classroom wanted the mascot to be a gladiator with colors royal blue and silver. Another chose a sabre-toothed tiger because it’s associated with confidence and determination; colors yellow and blue because they represented the sun and the sky as well as characteristics like energy and stability.

“That’s what we do here,” said STEAM Director Tina Stevenson. “It’s all about unique opportunities to embed all of our classes into one another and create interesting learning experiences.”

These community and project-based learning experiences, she said, are designed to lead all STEAM students to college- and career-readiness. Continue Reading

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‘My life is going to be devoted to kids and their betterment’

Kentucky Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd speaks with a small group about district budgets during the Superintendents' Summit in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 5, 2013

Kentucky Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd speaks with a small group about district budgets during the Superintendents’ Summit in Frankfort, Ky.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Sept. 5, 2013

Chief of Staff Thomas G. “Tommy” Floyd started at the Kentucky Department of Education on July 1. Floyd had been superintendent in the Madison County school district since March 2008 after serving as interim superintendent and chief academic officer for two years. Prior to Madison County, Dr. Floyd worked in the Wayne County, Montgomery County and Somerset Independent school districts, and at the Kentucky Department of Education, where he was a Highly Skilled Educator. Over the last 29 years, Floyd has been a teacher, a coach, an assistant principal, a principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

What is your role as chief of staff?

My role as chief of staff is to serve the Office of the Commissioner. I like to think of myself as a go-between, internally and externally. I have a large role with the staff here at the department, both associates and their teams; and the Office of the Commissioner; the many initiatives that we have in place; the numbers of ways that we reach out to and support school districts; and the external relationship between school districts – especially superintendents. Having been a superintendent, principal, assistant principal and teacher – I think I’ve been in every role in Continue Reading

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Kindergarten screener goes from pilot to full flight

Caleb Leach stands on one foot with his eyes closed for paraprofessional Cathy Reynolds as a demonstration of his gross motor skills for the kindergarten screener at Science Hill Elementary School (Science Hill Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, July 30, 2013

Caleb Leach stands on one foot with his eyes closed for paraprofessional Cathy Reynolds as a demonstration of his gross motor skills for the kindergarten screener at Science Hill Elementary School (Science Hill Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, July 30, 2013

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

Science Hill (Independent) Elementary School kindergarten teacher Linda Bruner  knew  the kindergarten screener would give her insight into the students who would be entering her classroom this year.

But she also wanted the screener to give her students an idea of what her classroom would be like as well.

“I wanted the process to be a representation of what it’s going to be like in my class, Bruner said. “I believe in positive reinforcement and the ability to try, so I wanted to go ahead and show the children that.”

Nearly 50 of Bruner’s students in her two half-day classes took the revised BRIGANCE Kindergarten Screener in late July.

Prior to the screening, Bruner sent a video message to parents and students. It served as a greeting and gave information regarding the screener and the school year. The student video used puppets to talk about the screener with hopes of eliminating any fears children might have with answering a question.

“Sometimes, they know the answer, but they’re afraid of being wrong, or they’re just shy,” Bruner said. “They worry about mistakes even at that age, but I always say in my class that we don’t worry about mistakes, because everything is a learning experience.” Continue Reading

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Internship turning out ‘super’ for participants

Melissa Givans, elementary instructional supervisor for the Meade County school district, and Georgia Hampton, a Minority Superintendent Internship Program participant, review the agenda for an upcoming curriculum meeting.

Melissa Givans, elementary instructional supervisor for the Meade County school district, and Georgia Hampton, a Minority Superintendent Internship Program participant, review the agenda for an upcoming curriculum meeting. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 14, 2013

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

Without the Minority Superintendent Internship Program, Alvin Garrison said he would not have applied to be a superintendent this year.

“The exposures that I received through the Minority Superintendent Program gave me the confidence that I could be considered for a superintendency,” the former John Hardin High School (Hardin County) principal said. “Had I not had those exposures, I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to put my name in the hat just yet.”

That would have been a loss for Covington Independent, where Garrison started as superintendent July 1.

Garrison was one of three people accepted to the Minority Superintendent Internship Program (MSIP), a Kentucky Department of Education initiative designed to identify and train a pool of highly qualified and highly effective ethnic minority superintendent candidates for Kentucky’s school districts. The other two educators selected for the program are Georgia Hampton and Shervita West, both elementary principals in the Jefferson County school district. Continue Reading

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Integrating technology and content for 21st-century instruction

Shannon Hill helps Elijah Stringer during her 4th-grade technology class at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013

Shannon Hill helps Elijah Stringer during her 4th-grade technology class at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013

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

Shannon Hill, technology coordinator at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County), vividly remembers going to the local library with her mother to work on research projects for school.

“My family couldn’t afford encyclopedias,” she said. “Today students have handheld devices, iPads, Kindle Fires and laptops. They can answer any question in 30 seconds or less.

“We are living in an information age where the possibilities are endless with education,” Hill added.

While technology advancements have revolutionized classroom learning, teachers are constantly trying to keep up with the pace.

“It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the trends,” Hill said. “However, I have found that if I stay in tune with my students, I’m able to stay on the cutting edge. Usually, they start using various programs and apps long before it catches on with the adults.”

While teachers agree it is a must to stay current, Pike County Career and Technical Education Director Patty Johnson said seeing the big picture is more important than knowing every single aspect of technology. Continue Reading

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‘We have more expectations than any group I’ve ever seen, but they’re all good’

Metcalfe County High School Principal Kelly Bell talks with students in the library. "We're trying to make reading a wonderful, life-long pleasure for them (students)," she said. Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013

Metcalfe County High School Principal Kelly Bell talks with students in the library. “We’re trying to make reading a wonderful, life-long pleasure for them (students),” she said.
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013

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

Metcalfe County High School Principal Kelly Bell was furious as she looked at the test. A student answered “B” to every question, knowing he only needed a C or better to pass the class. Instead, he didn’t even try to pass – just to spite a teacher he didn’t like.

“This is a highly intelligent young man. But if you do not have relationships with these students, and that teacher has not built the inner love of learning and wanting to be here, they’re going to flunk a test big as Pete. People can say, ‘Yada, yada, yada, relationships, culture – it’s not that big a deal.’ It is the missing piece to the puzzle,” the third-year principal said.

Wait, what? Bell’s upset with the teacher, not the student? Melissa Smith, a health sciences teacher, said Bell’s attitude that teachers must build relationships with students to inspire them to do their best has permeated the school.

“You can give these kids everything that they need in that classroom – the knowledge, the skills, the training – but when they sit down to take that test, they’ve got to want to perform: one, for the school and, two, for themselves,” she said.

It is that change in attitude and school culture that has seen Metcalfe County High transition from a persistently low-achieving school to more than doubling its college- and career-readiness rate in in just three years, state and local educators said. Continue Reading

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College-readiness involves more than good grades and good scores

Counselor Chris Reeves talks with senior Robby Rundle about his essay for the Common App during College Application Boot Camp at Beechwood High School (Beechwood Independent). Rundle plans on studying criminal Justice. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 6, 2013

Counselor Chris Reeves talks with senior Robby Rundle about his essay for the Common App during College Application Boot Camp at Beechwood High School (Beechwood Independent). Rundle plans on studying criminal Justice. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 6, 2013

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

Students at Beechwood (Independent) High School recently participated in a weeklong boot camp, but they weren’t focused on getting their bodies in shape. Instead, they were shaping up their skill set for applying to college.

“Getting into the right college is becoming such a competitive process,” said Beechwood guidance counselor Chris Reeves, who organized the week for roughly 50 rising seniors. “I wanted to give these students a chance to really get some individual attention and feedback regarding their essays and applications.”

Students participated in half-day sessions. At the beginning of the week, Reeves used role reversal to show the students what college application readers are looking for in essays and how they might judge them.

Students worked in groups and read the essays of fictional students Angela, Jimmy, Max, Rodney and Juliana. Reeves had groups admit two, waitlist one and decline admission to two.

It proved to be an eye-opening experience several of the students said. Reeves made sure to point out how the task also gave students Continue Reading

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Districts of Innovation chart path for schools of tomorrow

Jefferson County focused its District of Innovation application on 18 schools identified as persistently-low achieving. Photo by Amy Wallot

Jefferson County focused its District of Innovation application on 18 schools identified as persistently-low achieving. Photo by Amy Wallot

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

Imagine, if you will, a middle school classroom where students from 5th to 9th grades are using various Web-enabled devices to watch a teacher live stream his lesson from another classroom across the county. Their teacher, originally a middle school mathematics teacher but now integrating science into her lessons, is learning as much as the students, watching a demonstration of what she’d learned when her mentor teacher led their last professional learning community meeting.

Some of the students have only been in the class for two months but are completing their final projects and presentations to advance to the next class. Others are moving at a slower pace, which will have them in the class until well into what was once considered summer break. But with school year-round and accessible online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not everyone takes summer break anymore.

Across campus in a high school classroom, imagine 10th graders coming in at 10 a.m. for their first class, college-credit English. They share the room with students who traditionally would have graduated last year but needed a little more support to successfully complete college, so they stayed in school for grade 13. Continue Reading

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Together, they’re better

Teachers Cary York and Melanie Stamper, center, co-teach a lesson about making cheese during York’s basic foods class at East Jessamine High School (Jessamine County) Stamper is a chemistry teacher at East Jessamine High. She and York collaborate together throughout the school year. Photo by Amy Wallot, May 22, 2013

Teachers Cary York and Melanie Stamper, center, co-teach a lesson about making cheese during York’s basic foods class at East Jessamine High School (Jessamine County) Stamper is a chemistry teacher at East Jessamine High. She and York collaborate together throughout the school year. Photo by Amy Wallot, May 22, 2013

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

One of the basic principles of highly effective teaching is collaboration. Whether it’s working within the same content area, different content areas, across grade levels or through professional learning communities (PLC), teacher collaboration can happen in many ways.

The are many benefits, too, educators say. Good collaboration not only maximizes student learning, but it builds leadership in teachers and can improve instructional practices throughout a school.

Career and technical education (CTE) teachers strive for this high quality collaboration, too. Even though their classes can be very technical and trade specific, the collaboration opportunities are endless and include reaching into more core content-based classrooms. Continue Reading

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