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Learning from the 2018 Finalists' Classrooms, Part III

Third Visit: Kate Fiori, Vero Beach Elementary School, Vero Beach - Visiting Vero Beach Elementary School was delightful! I was greeted with a cute sign welcoming me and happy smiles from the clerical staff. As I walked through the teachers’ lounge area, there were huge charts posted on the walls. They showed the growth classes were making toward mastering their standards, and there was a pineapple chart for teachers to observe each other’s classes. The halls were filled with projects, essays, graphic organizers, artwork, photographs, and awards. I also noticed that teachers in the halls greeted other adults and children with sweet words, but they also ensured students were following school rules. There was a real community mentality that all staff members were actively engaged in addressing all students. I just felt a sense of purpose from the staff to be involved with helping students succeed academically and behaviorally. VBE is a Title I school with a high percentage of ELL students. Last year, the school’s grade moved from an F to a C. It was easy see the growth mentality of the staff.

Kate was working with a small group in her fifth-grade classroom when I entered. The students were listening to her science instruction and questions about acceleration and velocity. I was very impressed at the level of questions that were asked. If the student answers were not deep enough, Kate prompted the students with additional questions and sparked even deeper discussions. The other students in the room were actively engaged in other acceleration and velocity activities during the five-station rotation. Kate used the science content to reinforce reading and writing skills as well as a history lesson about Isaac Newton and even incorporated art and creativity by having the students make superheroes. The whole lesson was cross-curricular and fun to observe.

The classroom was decorated with student work, anchor charts for all subjects, encouraging signs, lessons of growth mindset, and charts for student academic progress and behavior. There was also a holiday decoration in which the students wrote notes of gratitude to each other. The desks were in groups of three or four. Science projects were posted outside the door with pictures of the science fair. There was something to see and learn everywhere you looked, and even though the walls were full, Kate’s classroom was organized and beautifully arranged.