Teacher Spotlights

Mrs. Peake

'It's been incredible': CES teacher Abigail Peake sees tremendous growth in students with return of in-person learning

Sometimes it’s the little things that help bring back a sense of normalcy. At least, that seems to be the case for Calvary Elementary teacher Abigail Peake who teaches a kindergarten/first grade split class.

Two of those “little things” would be guinea pigs Rosie and Posie, Peake’s two classroom pets. 

“The kids hold them, and pet them, and feed them, and that’s definitely something you can’t do on Chromebooks,” Peake said. “The kids are so excited about those things -- it's those little extra things you can throw in to get them excited about coming to school and learning [...] We’ve been able to have fun this year while we were learning. Last year was so much harder to make things fun virtually.”

During the past two school years, those types of in-person experiences have been relatively absent due to time spent operating on Distance-Learning. Although students have experienced a more typical school experience this year, Peake explained it came with a learning curve after so much time away.


Carrie Thompson

‘Being at school actually helped them reach their goals.’ MCMS teacher Carrie Thompson sees vast improvement in student performance throughout school year

As Marion County Middle School English /Language Arts teacher Carrie Thompson explains it, having missed so much in-person instruction over the past two school years left many of her students without some of the skills she’d come to expect. 

As a result, she’s had to learn to pace her instruction appropriately for her seventh graders whose last true school year was in the fourth grade.

“I need to slow down because I had to realize they’ve missed two years. I had to slow down and teach them things I assumed they already knew.”



‘My most rewarding year’: WMES second-grade teacher Karen Keene sees incredible growth in students

Perhaps nothing illustrates the challenges of teaching following a year of off-and-on Distance Learning than this brief anecdote from West Marion Elementary School second-grade teacher Karen Keene: 

“The first time we used glue out of a glue bottle, the students didn’t know how to open up the orange glue top,” Keene said. Instead of loosening the orange cap, students removed the entire top off the bottle.

“In 21 years, I’ve never had to teach students how to use a glue bottle,” Keene added with a laugh. “It was funny, but I was waiting for everyone’s glue to go all over their paper.”


abby smith

‘All of my students are teachers and leaders’: LES first grade teacher Abby Smith ensures leadership is an inherent part of class

When you walk into Abby Smith’s first-grade classroom at Lebanon Elementary School, it’s easy to recognize a sense of independence as students busy themselves in groups spread throughout the classroom. There’s a small platform at the front of the room with the words “Be Brave” painted on it, and as students work collaboratively in clusters, it’s obvious students feel empowered. Although the students may be separated into smaller groups while Smith makes her rounds, that’s not to say students are ever without a teacher.

“When you enter my classroom, I hope -- no matter if you’re a student, or a staff member, or someone from the community -- I hope you don’t see it as ‘a teacher and students’ because all of my students are teachers and leaders,” Smith said.



Building relationships and having fun: GES teacher Rebecca Ungerer hosts after school book club

Among the tasks of any teacher is finding ways to incorporate student problem-solving in the classroom. However, this school year, Glasscock Elementary 4th grade teacher Rebecca Ungerer had to complete some creative problem-solving of her own -- specifically, how to more fully engage students in interpersonal collaboration after so much time over the past two school years students spent learning from home. 

Her solution: An after school book club aimed more at reading for enjoyment, building relationships, and taking a break from the stressors of the school day.

“The whole purpose of the book club was to have that opportunity for kids to help one another. I knew kids needed to practice reading and also see other kids enjoy reading,” Ungerer said, adding she also “missed reading books for the fun of books.”