Thanks to Michelle Davis, a third-grade teacher at Kingsland Elementary School, Principal Charles Curry will have some extra money to spend on developing curriculum this year.
Gov. Nathan Deal recently named Davis one of eight winners of the state’s Innovation in Teaching competition, and it comes with cash.
“The Innovation in Teaching Competition allows us the opportunity to recognize some of our state’s best and most deserving teachers,” Deal said in the release announcing the winners.
Teachers who win the competition, after being nominated by their principals, receive a $2,000 individual stipend and their schools get $5,000 grants.
Davis, who has a master’s degree in instructional technology, won the grant for her school by arranging “virtual author visits” in which students use the Internet to speak to the authors of books they read in class.
Each child in Davis’ reading and language arts class has a Google Chromebook laptop.
With the computers, the students interacted through Google’s document sharing capabilities to finish lesson plans built around the assigned books. After the lessons were completed and handed in with document sharing, Davis sent selections of the students’ work to the authors.
The authors then “visited” the classroom via webcam to speak with the students about the work they had done.
Those visits were projected on a big screen at the front of Davis’ classroom and the authors could see the class through a webcam Davis hooked up to her computer. “It was great for the kids to actually meet the person that wrote the book they were reading,” Davis said.
Last year, Davis developed plans for two books, one by Derek Munson and another by children’s book author Toby Speed.
The lessons with Munson went so well that he sent the class an advance copy of his new book, Davis said. That led to an extra lesson in which the students compared the characters in the new book with those in the book they already had read.
“[The students] thought that was really neat to get to read a book that no one else had seen,” Davis said.
One thing is for sure: Davis’ innovation will lead to more virtual visits to Camden County Schools this year.
She said she remains in contact with Munson and has other visits planned.
As news of her application for the competition spread, other teachers around the county contacted her asking how to get similar lessons started.
Davis is happy to help but said she often ends up referring those teachers to Sabrina Sterling, the school system’s instructional technology specialist.
Sterling, she said, was instrumental in helping her adapt the Chromebooks and other Google technology to her lesson plans.
“I jokingly call her my genie in a Chromebook,” Davis said of Sterling. Sterling has now taken the lead in getting the technology infrastructure in place for other visits.
Davis taught music before revenue shortfalls forced the school to eliminate the program. She now describes herself as someone willing to push ahead and try new things.
But she is reticent to take much credit for her recent honor. She said she couldn’t have gotten the lessons completed with out the help of Sterling and the support of Curry and Assistant Principal Karon Ellis.
“They were both very supportive,” she said. “They never told me no and always encouraged me to think creatively.”
“The best thing about this is the school gets the grant money,” Davis said. “We are really excited about that.”