Clark County teachers making a difference in the classroom

Many teachers in Clark County are making a difference in their districts and in their classrooms in Springfield-area schools.

Throughout the county, teachers are working to make learning fun and build on their connection with students, whether it be by creating a butterfly garden, teaching class outside or transforming classrooms. The teachers have found unique ways to keep students engaged and help them learn in different, hands-on ways.

The Springfield News-Sun is highlighting a small portion of the teachers in our community this week starting with today’s stories.

Here are three teachers who are making a difference in the classroom for their students.

John Campbell

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

John Campbell, gifted coordinator at Clark-Shawne Elementary School, is working with students to create a butterfly garden on campus that students will design and decorate.

The garden came about while working with third-grade students, attempting to find a way to make the school unique. Once a butterfly garden was decided on, the students began doing research. The students put in a lot of research to find the best plants to attract butterflies, best locations for the garden, and positive effects of having a garden. The plan and diagram of the garden will be presented to the principal and the students will help in preparing the soil and planting this fall.

“Originally, it was just a way to incorporate several subject areas into a fun project while trying to have a practical application,” Campbell said. “The students have been the driving force behind the plans for the project. The best part of this process was their eagerness to hear a response from Mr. Phelps (the principal). When I was able to tell them we were planning on actually creating one, it was great hearing their cheers.”

Campbell said he has been impressed by some of the students’ “laser focused minds” during different parts of the project, including students looking into every butterfly species that may be in the area and trying to find the best plants to accommodate those butterflies. They have also used some outside help from the Master Gardeners Association during the process.

The garden is still being developed, but it’s located behind the school board building. The butterfly garden project is also being combined with a memory walk for the three former elementary schools — Reid, Rockway and Possum — that will have plaques for each school.

“I love being able to challenge the students I work with, and really test their thinking. I hope projects like these show the benefits of me challenging them, and that they can make a difference in the community,” Campbell said.

Campbell said a lot of research has went into this project with figuring out the best way possible to layout a butterfly garden and which plans to use, and that they are all excited to finish it up this fall.

Ten years from now, Campbell hopes this project helps students realize that hard work pays off and that they can make a difference in the world.

Angela Jones

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Angela Jones teaches science classes at Tecumseh High School, including advanced physical science, consumer chemistry and a new course this year that takes the students outside to learn.

Conservation science, supported by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Division of Wildlife, allows students to develop skills, build an understanding of science, and learn scientific techniques through conservation with an emphasis on hands-on, real-world activities. They can choose to take this course during their junior or senor year, which includes many disciplines of science but all through conservation.

Jones is excited about this new course and the opportunity for students to pursue science in a different way.

“I’m excited to, along with my students, build connections with our natural environment and wildlife and learn how to use our natural resources in a sustainable and responsible way,” Jones said.

On Fridays, students work outside to identify specific species of animals or plants. They’ve even been fishing and later this year will make their own fishing lures.

Students learn how activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping conservation work, shooting sports and boating directly benefit habitat acquisition, enhancement and protection, and wildlife management.

Some of the hands-on, real-world activities the students participate in include local species identification; invasive species clean outs; outdoor clean-ups; fishing, fishing knots, making lures and fish health checks; fish and game processing; and becoming familiar with local outdoor areas and parks.

“We are actively spending much more time outside. We are getting to know our surroundings and learning about our local environment, and my hope is that we are gaining a greater appreciation for it in the process,” Jones said.

Stacie Tillman

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Stacie Tillman is a fourth-grade teacher of science, math and language arts at Rolling Hills Elementary School in the Northeastern Local School District. She not only keeps consistent routines in the classroom, but also transforms them.

Room transformations are a student favorite, and she tries to do them at least once each grading period.

Recently, Tillman turned the classroom into a surgery suite to get her students excited about practicing order of operations. Her students had custom-made badges, wore PPE and worked with highlighter syringes to save their patients. Each student had to complete their problem to have a successful surgery.

“The activities range from transforming the classroom into an operating room where the students are doctors performing order of operations and mending their patients to changing our science room into a critter crime scene where the students become detectives and had to use their observation skills to solve who had been making small animals disappear from the forest,” Tillman said.

In class, students do routine activities that they see each week, as well as projects, the room transformations and escape room challenges. Tillman also uses flexible seating with different options for students’ normal seat, and she lets them lay on the floor, stand or even use a wobble cushions when working to help them focus while completing assignments. She allows this type of seating and working because she said since she needs a lot of movement during the day, she understands when kids also need to wiggle and move around.

“The kids put the work in to learn the important skills and then I try to find ways to practice the skills in a fun and engaging way,” she said. “I like to encourage the students to work together to do many different types of lessons, challenges, games, and activities. Allowing kids to move and talk while learning and being productive keeps them engaged in the task at hand.”

Tillman said although making sure her students are learning is very important, making connections with them is the most important part of her job. She said one of her favorite parts of the day is taking the time to greet the kids in the morning and when they leave class because she feels this creates a tight bond with them and pays off in the long run for both her and her students’ personal achievements.

“I try to always make decisions in my classroom by first thinking about what will be best for the kids and what will help them achieve their goals. When I see my students start to grow, become comfortable in our class, and gain confidence socially and academically, it makes me feel so proud of them, and it brings me joy,” she said.

About our series

The Springfield News-Sun is highlighting how teachers are making a difference in the classroom this week. Today’s story features three educators, and the newspaper will feature other teachers — Reed Jones at Northeastern, Beth Szekacs at Clark-Shawnee, Heather Stambaugh at Greenon, Viangie Gibson at Kenton Ridge and Greta Eber at Tecumseh — each day through Tuesday, Sept. 20.

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