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September 2, 2011 Greetings From Top Teaching Advisor Stacey By Stacey Burt

    Welcome to room 11, my name is Stacey Burt and I am a math and science teacher enjoying my 14th year in the classroom.  After spending a decade working with 5th graders, I made the leap up to grade 6 and have adored every moment of it.  My educational background includes an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a graduate degree in special education with a concentration in gifted and talented education. Currently, I am a doctoral student researching self-efficacy as it pertains to mathematically precocious females in middle grades.

    Originally from Navarre, Florida, my husband’s job required that we relocate to the very scenic and historic city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee about four years ago. Currently, I am teaching 5th and 6th grade math and science at The Discovery School.  We are a choice school that serves gifted and high-achieving students from all parts of our school district and the surrounding counties. Technology plays a vital role for students at our school, as grades 4 through 6 are issued MacBooks to use in and out of the classroom each academic year. The framework for our school is based on the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) created by Dr. Joseph Renzulli.  Compacting and accelerating student curriculum is implemented and students in all grades participate in enrichment clusters once a week for two hours, investigating topics beyond the regular curriculum and based on student interest.

    I believe that the educational journey is one that the teacher and student should take together.  Each year I am amazed at the quantity of information I am required to teach my students; however, I am even more in awe of how much my students actually teach me. I want the students who enter my classroom to feel safe and willing to take risks, make mistakes, giggle, and most importantly, become the primary stakeholders in their educational story.

    My classroom is organized to encourage creative thinking, independent problem-solving, and open-ended discussions. From the “alternative seating” (yoga balls) to the student-created tessellations colored on the ceiling tiles to the insane amount of indirect lighting, students and visitors soon realize the atmosphere was created with comfort and accessibility in mind. There is access to books (all genres), hands-on kits, science materials, and a fair amount of technology (hand held GPS’s and Vernier probe ware), all of which have been placed in our classroom for student use at school or at home.

    Teaching is my passion and over the course of my time in the classroom I have found that I am constantly reminding myself of two things:

    Make it relevant.  What I am teaching has got to have some relationship to the student.  It has to matter to them in a way that comprehension comes naturally. I have found that applying content to real world examples makes skills and topics relevant and mastery a “no brainer” for the students. Quite simply, students have to find a practical use for the knowledge we are imparting to them in order for it to become “sticky.”

    Make it count and make the connection.  Connecting with students is essential. Knowing them on a personal level allows a different layer of dialogue to take place. If the connection is earnest, educators can teach their students anything. On my desk sits a tiny little block with the saying, “Today is not a dress rehearsal.” Oh, how true that statement is. I try to be mindful of that quote every time I plan a lesson, or every time I feel exhaustion setting in. Each day, as educators, we have an opportunity to make a difference, to teach something in a way that might change someone’s path. When it is all said and done, at the end of the year my students will leave with numerous experiences; building tetrahedron kites, catapult construction, cow eye dissections, solar ovens, the mathematics of bubbles and polymers, robotic challenges and polygons on the hall walls; however, if they leave with a new appreciation for math and science then I know I have done my job. I feel I owe it to my students to give them all I have every day, every lesson.  I not only have a responsibility to teach curriculum, but I have to make it count, all of it.


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