When the University of West Alabama welcomed the first cohort of the Black Belt Teacher Corps in 2017, the goal was to create a strong group of teacher-leaders who would bring excellence in teaching and education to the rural communities of the Black Belt Region. As part of each Teacher Corps scholarship, students are provided with a $1,000 grant to support a school-based service project in their school communities. We recently received updates from several students, and are pleased to share the stories of their service grants with you below. We are proud of what these young leaders have accomplished in their communities in such a short amount of time, and can't wait to see the impacts they will continue to have for years to come!
Westside Elementary School, Demopolis, AL
My name is Paige Gandy and I am a Black Belt Teaching Corps Scholarship Recipient from the University of West Alabama. I decided to complete my service project at Westside Elementary in Demopolis, Alabama. Westside is a Pre-K-2 grade school in the Demopolis City School System. 76% of the students in this school system qualify for free and reduced priced meals. My project is titled “Lights, Camera Teach: A Reflective Teaching Model.” The school system was able to partner with Audio Enhancement to supply the audio system that is placed in the classroom. I set up a model classroom that is equipped with an audio enhancement system. There is a cordless microphone that the teacher wears and when they speak their voice is distributed throughout the classroom, so every student can hear clearly; no matter where they are located in the room. Using the microphone, teachers no longer have to strain their voice, or repeat instructions several times because their voice is amplified. It also impacts student learning by keeping students interested and engaged and it has been proven to improve test scores by 7-10 percent. With this system, teachers and staff are also able to record lessons and videos for various certification purposes as well as professional development opportunities. Teachers also have the option to prerecord lessons to show when they are absent from school. This model classroom can be utilized for so many different purposes and I am grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this project and provide this model classroom for the teachers, staff and students at Westside.
Westside Elementary School, Demopolis, AL
My name is Haley Sager and here is a little bit about my service project “Summer Brain Boost” that I conducted at Westside Elementary School during my internship.
My service project, “Summer Brain Boost” was completed at Westside Elementary in Demopolis, Alabama. I conducted a community involvement night where I invited parents, guardians, and their student to school to make manipulatives to use over the summer months to increase their retention of the standards taught over the past school year. During the Summer Brain Boost night I had several speakers conduct different stations. In our technology station the speaker shared websites and apps parents and guardians could download for their students to be able to learn through playing online games. In our reading/literacy station the speaker shared how parents and guardians can make hands on manipulatives with their student to increase their individual reading level. Our math station was broken up by grade levels where speakers focused on the importance of math fluency games where parents and guardians could interact with their student to increase their understanding of number sense.
I’d also like to expand on why I chose to say parents and guardians. During my time spent in field experience observations and recently in my student teaching, I have come to realize not every student has the typical mother and father home life. Through my eyes I felt as if I just said "parent involvement" the guardians would not think of themselves as a parental role and therefore would assume that this school night wasn’t for them. I said community because I believe sometimes that is what it takes to raise a child. In this case, I look at a community as a group of people working together for the greater good of a child.
Livingston Junior High School
This semester I have been placed at Livingston Jr. High School in a small rural town forty minutes south of Tuscaloosa in Livingston, AL. I am a physical education intern and I believe that the definition of PE is education through movement. I wanted to help make their existing PE department stronger. I chose to develop activity skill sets that the current teacher can use and add to lesson plans. By adding these skill sets, I was able to add equipment to a department that had very little for a large number of students. Now these students can learn more skills, develop socially, and create a habit of life-long physical activity.
To learn about previous service projects conducted by members of the Black Belt Teacher Corps, click here. To learn more about the Rural Teacher Corps effort and the importance of fostering teacher-leaders in rural places, click here.
Thank you to University of West Alabama for paving the way for rural education in the south. Many thanks to all of the Black Belt Teacher Corps students for the difference they are making in rural Alabama schools!
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Innovative Place-based Education Projects lead by ROOTed in Place & National Signature Project Award Recipients
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Our National Signature Project Awardees and ROOTed in Place grantees shared updates from their place-based education project.