Teachers who attended the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta earlier this year shared the lessons they learned and brought back to their classrooms at the Logan Country Club yesterday.
“We sent 40 teachers to the Ron Clark Academy this year. It is a magnet school. He teaches outside the box. He has very high expectations of children and he demands a lot,” Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond said. “Today, we opened up our session with Lisa Buchannon’s students from Man Middle School, who learned songs about orders of operation. The things these kids have learned and are doing are phenomenal. It’s been a real positive thing.”
Ron Clark is an American teacher who has worked with disadvantaged students in rural North Carolina and in Harlem in New York City. He is known for his books on teaching children in middle schools. The Ron Clark Academy is a school in Atlanta founded by Clark where the teachers use unique methods to teach students.
Teachers dress up in costume to give lessons. The classrooms are filled with props that transform them into planets, hospital rooms and ancient ruins in order to draw students into the lessons. Some teachers instruct by giving musical lectures. Clark calls the school’s methods “edutaining”, meaning the teachers are educating and entertaining at the same time.
Tuition to the private school is $18,000 per student and, in 2010, the school had an enrollment of 98 students. The academy is also well-known for getting kids opportunities to attend prestigious high schools and even Ivy League universities.
Zigmond said the teachers who were able to attend the session yesterday shared what they learned with her and other school officials.
“I haven’t been to the Ron Clark Academy. I’ve met him and we had him here. I sent 40 teachers and some of the ones who could attend tonight are sharing with me what they learned, what they saw, what made an impression, how mannerly the children were, how they could meet the public, how they make eye contact and how they present themselves well. These are things we want Logan County students to know and so we’ve brought those teachers back and we’re sharing what they’ve used in the classrooms that is making it more engaging for students.”
Kristen Dingess, a science teacher at Logan High School, said what she learned at the academy changed the way she teachers her students now.
“I had honestly felt like I had always done a good job. And then I came back and completely changed almost everything in how I do things,” Dingess said. “I make a lot more participation-based stuff, because I find it’s better to assess the kids like that and the kids seem to be more responsive to a lot of kinesthetic learning, where they are up moving around a little bit more and we’ve sang some songs and wrote on desks and wrote songs. It’s changed my outlook on my career.”
Dingess said the students really like how she teaches her classes.
“They reacted much better than I thought. We did this activity where I told them we were writing a poem, but I didn’t tell them it was really going to be a song, and I divided them up and I thought there was no way they were going to sing this, but I tried it and they done it. Then, they wanted to make a video. So, it’s really done a lot. More than anything, it has inspired me to go on in this career. It’s made me re-evaluate why I’m there.”
Rebecca Wood, a first-grade teacher at Logan Elementary, said she discovered what students wanted from their teachers.
“One of the main things I brought back was that they took a poll where they asked what they wanted from a teacher and they wanted teachers to smile and to make school fun and engaging, and that’s things that I have taken back to my classroom — to find new and innovative ways to make school a fun environment for them,” Wood said. “If they are enjoying it, they are going to learn it and it will go into their longterm memory and they can take it out of their brains when they need it. I think that’s what is important. We, as adults, have to learn how to find enjoyment in our career. They have to learn to find enjoyment in school, so why can’t we do that together?”
Wood said her students have been very receptive to what she brought back from the academy.
“They don’t say ‘Oh, we have to do math now’ or ‘Oh, we have to do spelling now.’ Now they say ‘Yes! I can’t wait for math. I love doing math,’ or ‘We get to use this tool,’ or ‘We get to do this today.’ School now isn’t a chore for them. They enjoy it. It’s something in which they can find some enjoyment and this instills in them that learning is fun. We are always growing and learning and this shows that learning is an enjoyable process.”
To contact Staff Writer Michael Browning, call 304-752-6950, extension 309, or email him at email@example.com.