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Teachers of the Year Attend Ron Clark Academy

March 2017

The Lowndes County Teachers of the Year spent a day at the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) located in Atlanta, GA.  Energy, enthusiasm, engaging, excitement - these are just a few words to describe the educational climate at the Ron Clark Academy!  Upon arrival, we were enthusiastically greeted by the students with handshakes and smiles and music!  The students at RCA were very polite, articulate, disciplined, respectful, and attentive. Throughout the day, we were ushered in and out of classrooms to observe the innovative and exciting teaching methods occurring at the school.

At RCA the learning environment is quite unconventional.  Classrooms have been transformed by murals on the wall of elaborate themes. Students use chants, cheers, song, and movement in their rigorous curriculum to learn. Teachers often teach silent lessons with music and animation. Using these methods encourages higher order thinking skills and encourages participation of all students. Expectations for academic excellence as well as conduct are set high and the students are held accountable.  The code of conduct includes greeting others with a handshake, maintaining eye contact, and answering questions in complete sentences.  Creativity, wonder, joy, passion, and a fearless attitude drive the RCA to excellence. The use of teams creates healthy competition and each participant is pushed to do their best.

The RCA requires that parents be on board with the educational methods. Each home has at least a 10 minute visit from Mr. Clark prior to student acceptance. This sets the groundwork and lays out expectations clearly for each family member. Trust is built. As a family environment, respect and love are core principles. Each child must work hard to achieve preset goals. Nothing is just given. Students were being taught not only to achieve, but that they have significance. Achievement is about attaining something; significance is about being something/someone. I heard one of the teachers say, “We must be intentional with our lives. Our power as educators comes from empowering our students with skills to think outside the box, to be other minded, and to be confident that they make a difference.” Hard work, integrity, and a selfless mentality not entitlement is part of the RCA code of conduct.

Ron Clark and Kim Bearden, co-founders of the school, met with each group and provided a wealth of information and ideas to bring back and implement in our own classrooms. The Lowndes County Teachers of the Year were extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit the RCA.  This trip was made possible by a State Farm Grant through the Lowndes Education Improvement Foundation (LEIF).

From left to right:  Dr. Coutney Pindling, Melanie Johnson, Michelle Lipscomb, Mariah Elder, Rena Taylor, Giles Godwin, Michelle Denly, Tami Williams, Brandi Stalvey, Valencia Elliott, Connie Smith, and System Teacher of the Year Maria Staley.

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