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Taylors Creek demonstrates model-school status
Ga. education officials visit school, watch demonstrations
web 1028 TCE showcase 2
Student leaders donning pirate hats welcomed the tour to the school and its Ahoy to Learning! theme before leading groups to observe the classrooms. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Students and teachers alike were on their best behavior at Taylors Creek Elementary School on Wednesday when more than 200 people filed in to catch a glimpse of classroom operations.

Technology and student interaction took center stage as education and community stakeholders gathered with riders of the Georgia Partnership of Excellence in Education Annual Trip Across Georgia for the school’s “Best Practices Showcase.”
“It’s such an honor — it’s overwhelming,” said Debbie Rodriguez, the school’s principal of 15 years. 

Within classrooms from all grade levels, teachers engaged students with interactive Smartboards, students demonstrated educational iPad applications and visitors looked on in awe.

In one third-grade room, teacher Sherry Townsend led the class in diagramming sentences using color-coded boxes on the Smartboard, and students followed along with construction-paper rectangles on their desks.

The lesson integrates language arts with social studies by reiterating previous concepts about geography, she explained. Walking out of the room, current and future educators marveled at the activity’s creativity.

“It’s a great hands-on activity,” Valdosta State University senior Megan Bloom said of the simultaneous integration of two disciplines. “I know, for me, parts of it are still sometimes hard.”

“It really keeps them engaged because each student has to do their own sentence at their desk,” Dalton State University senior Kimberly Sapp said. The use of creativity to provoke student engagement was especially notable, she added.

In Dennis Cooke’s kindergarten class, students rotated between four areas, where they completed computer activities, played on iPod Touches, matched 3D numbers and letters with ones on paper and helped Cooke complete sentences on the board.

According to district Executive Director of Technology Patti Crane, three elementary schools, two middle schools and Liberty County High School have embraced a technology initiative through the period use of a few iPod Touch models.

As for the bus tour recognition, Taylors Creek is one of eight schools in mideastern and southeastern Georgia selected for demonstrating adjustments to economic instability and changes, according to Partnership Communications Director Bill Maddox.

“It’s a tremendous source of pride, and it’s great to be recognized,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said.
The tour’s objectives are to commend schools that have successful practices and demonstrate their methods, with the ultimate hope of passing the ideas on to other districts, Maddox said. Schools are nominated by supporters who either can be parents or members of the education community, and a selection board evaluates them on many criteria, including standardized test performance.

“Every score that I look at here is either greater than or equal to the state average,” Maddox said, displaying the school’s Adequate Yearly Progress scores for 2010 and 2011. “In fact, the only score where they’re only equal to the average is in third-grade math on the CRCT.”

As for how the administration pushes teachers to succeed and adapt to new technology, Rodriguez said she does not mandate anything.

“Team collaboration is key here,” she said. “We get together and collaborate, and the ideas catch on like wildfire.”
One member of the tour asked Rodriguez how she keeps her team motivated, and she said that it’s more or less a self-sustaining effort aimed at fostering student growth.

“When you work with kids who get excited about everything, that’s motivation in itself,” kindergarten teacher Windy Childs said.

Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton also attended the event, and he said that the change in technology from when he was in school and, even more recently, from when his children were in school is amazing.

“Every time I walk into a kindergarten class and see what they’re learning, I’m just blown away,” he said, adding that it’s wonderful the county has such great schools for 3rd Infantry Division parents to send their children to.

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