Resource teachers make a difference

Published 11:40 pm Friday, February 4, 2011

Correct clues: Fifth-graders Zachary Bunday, Chris Boykins, and Zerriq Ortiz work to pin the correct clues to their classmates Alex Reynolds and Ashley Andino during the Amazing Race event at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School Friday. This event was organized by physical education teacher Richard Linyear and school counselor Robin Riddick with the help of 4-H Extension Agent Danielle Jones to help students review science SOLs.

When Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School fifth-graders learned about the moon and the solar system Friday, it was their physical education teacher and school counselor instructing them.

The event, modeled after the television show “The Amazing Race,” was organized by physical education teacher Richard Linyear, counselor Robin Riddick and 4-H Extension Agent Danielle Jones.

“This reinforces what the teachers have already taught,” Linyear said.

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Linyear and Riddick are not alone in planning educational extension activities to reinforce Standards of Learning topics with students.

Suffolk elementary school resource teachers are working hard to make a difference by assisting classroom teachers in strengthening students in SOL concepts.

Although it is not necessarily the responsibility of resource teachers — art, music and physical education teachers and librarians — to instruct students in core subjects like math, science and English, the resource teachers at most Suffolk elementary schools are using their time to help contribute to their students’ success on the SOLs.

Resource teachers at most of the elementary schools are using their planning periods to tutor students in core subjects and to plan additional learning activities for students, said Dana Bilby, elementary science lead teacher.

The resource teachers review level-appropriate SOLs, review upcoming tests and quizzes and read grade-level meeting minutes to prepare themselves to help students.

Resource teachers may not be reading or math teachers, but they familiarize themselves with the material and will do what it takes to help their students succeed, Bilby said.

“They really do want the kids to succeed,” Bilby said. “They are a vital piece to the schools. It allows students to learn something in a different way.”

Bilby explained that at Creekside Elementary, librarian Kim Richardson frequently does activities and has even brought live animals into the library to get kids interested in reading about animals.

“There is always something new everyday in the media center,” she said.

Bilby said a Colonial Day activity at Booker T. Washington Elementary School that featured music, games, clothing, dancing and activities from the Colonial time period helped students with their history SOLs. It helped students to picture what it would be like to live in that time period, she said.

By virtue of their content areas, resource teachers can organize events like Colonial Days to incorporate movement, pictures, music, drawing and more that help students with different learning styles.

“It helps us feel that we’re part of the whole picture,” said Alan Lowe, physical education teacher at Northern Shores Elementary. “If we can create a lesson that will go along, we do that.”

Lowe uses his planning time to meet with small groups of students from different grade levels. Lowe and the other resource teachers at his school split the grade levels and classrooms so that they can offer more students and teachers assistance. He tutors students mostly in reading and math.

While resource teachers at most of the elementary schools provide additional remediation, Oakland Elementary School frequently holds “resource fairs” in which the resource teachers plan activities for an entire grade level on particular SOL topics. During these fairs, the art teacher may provide activities on one aspect of the SOL incorporating visual stimuli, while the music teacher provides activities on another aspect of the SOL incorporating sound and music, and so on.

“The resource fairs were implemented to reinforce what children are learning in their classrooms,” said Chris Phillips, principal at Oakland Elementary. “It enhances the educational experience.”

The resource teachers at Oakland meet with the classroom teachers to discuss strategies for teaching certain material and to find out what classroom teachers may need extra help in teaching. They also review test scores and analyze areas of weakness to assist them in remediating students.

Phillips explained that the resource teachers at Oakland also provide students with homework help during their planning blocks, additional in-class tutoring, and opportunities to work on SOL topics using computer games.

“They are a very integral to the success of this building,” Phillips said.