Congratulations 2015 Academy Stars!

The Academy Star Awards recognize students who have overcome significant challenges to build proficiency in reading and math, as well as teachers who go above and beyond on a daily basis to provide their students with every opportunity to improve their skills.

It is very rewarding for all of us at EPS to learn about the creative work and commitment of Academy teachers and the incredible achievements of these students. Congratulations on another outstanding year!

Use the tabs below to read about our 2015 Academy Stars.  Learn more about Academy of READING® or Academy of MATH®.

Academy of READING Student of the Year – Winner

Anthony, 6th Grade, Powell Middle School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Christine Castilla, Interventionist

Anthony is a very respectful student.  He came into class everyday ready to complete his skills for the day.  He never gave me any trouble and I never had to ask him to get on task.  He's a fast worker and he passed his skills diligently and with a positive attitude.  Anthony began in Academy of READING with a 5.0 - below basic score on the reading placement test.  He ended the year with a 6.0 basic score after completing the assigned 42 skills.  In all, Anthony completed 64 skills-all at the required skill level (152% of his program).  On the Path Driver for Reading test Anthony scored better than 43 per cent of students taking the test nationally.

Academy of READING Student of the Year – Finalist

Eric, 6th Grade, West Oak Middle School, Mundelein, IL

Nominated by Megan Mandro, 5/6 Reading Teacher

Erick came to West Oak in October of 5th grade and was entered into the ELL program. Erick really struggled throughout 5th grade. Although he knew he struggled he continued to work hard. At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, our school began to implement the Academy of READING program. Erick was a little reluctant at first because he struggled with his letter sounds because of his ELL background. Once Erick got into the program he began to show huge strides. Of course there were moments of frustration, but he never let that stop him. Not only did he increase his reading level from a 2.0 to a 7.0 but his Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies teacher have all mentioned that they have seen an improvement in his reading skills. Erick is a more confident reader because of his hard work and dedication to the Academy of READING program.

Academy of READING Student of the Year – Finalist

Aaliyah, 6th Grade, Whitten Midddle School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Emmanuel Muhammad, Teacher

Aaliyah came to me as a struggling reader. She was very timid and hardly participated in class discussion. This was most likely because she did not understand the materials we were covering. Since implementing Academy of READING, her comprehension has shot through the roof. Her state test scores in ELA have improved tremendously this year. This program brought her from below basic to proficient in a matter of months. Her hard work and dedication in completing this program were unmatched. I am very impressed with how far she has come.

Academy of READING Teacher of Excellence – Winner

Sharon White, Academy of READING Teacher, Maddox Elementary School, NC

Nominated by Jessica Dowd, Academy Implementation Trainer, TE21 Inc.

Ms. White is a first year Academy of READING teacher for the Laurel School District. From the start of her implementation, Ms. White has set high expectations. The implementation size is larger than recommended best practices due to high needs, but because of the high expectations and excellent motivational techniques used, the students work incredibly hard from bell to bell in Academy.

Before class dismissal, Ms. White flips the lights without ever making a sound to let her class know that they need to reach trial completion and Lobby out. Ms. White understands the importance of a quite environment and uses unique signals to communicate with her students without disrupting others. The training monitor, weekly progress report, and class snapshot reports are used to reward students for progress which keeps them motivated. Quarterly reward challenges are put into place and if students meet their Academy goals, they are allowed to attend Academy celebrations like pizza parties, dances, and donut parties. The students work incredibly hard to reach their goals in order to be rewarded. Ms. White uses personal funds and school funds to make sure that students are rewarded for goals met.

Because the implementation size is larger, it makes coaching all students difficult. Ms. White understands the importance and value in coaching her struggling Academy students. Ms. White often sacrifices her lunch block to pull students in for small group coaching or one-on-one coaching. She uses her "pull-back" time to strengthen relationships with her 2nd-5th grade students which leads to a greater respect in the Academy classroom. Ms. White has framed Academy T-shirts in her lab to showcase one of the graduation gifts that students will receive at the final awards day. She is constantly coming up with ways to motivate her students to succeed. The principal, Ms. Lovett, who also is very involved in the Academy implementation has purchased graduation medals for Academy graduates and will be awarding students medals at the school award's program.

Just this week, the Mississippi Department of Education released the pass rate for the third grade exit assessment (3rd grade gate assessment which can keep students from passing 3rd grade if they fail). Maddox Elementary, has a higher free and reduced rate than the district average of 93% which is much higher than the 72% state average. It had a 74% pass rate on the 3rd grade exit assessment thanks to the supplemental Academy support.

Ms. White has taken her experience this year and has already begun reflecting on how next year can be even better. Because of her desire to do what is right for children and the daily sacrifices that she makes in her Academy lab, I believe that she is a perfect candidate for the Academy Teachers of Excellence Award. Because of the excellent job Ms. White has done with her Academy of READING implementation she, along with her Superintendent who was recently named Superintendent of the year in Mississippi, have been asked to present at the upcoming school leadership conference which will be held in Mississippi.

Academy of READING Teacher of Excellence – Finalist

Rose Dunn, Reading Teacher, Chastain Middle School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Norma Phillips, Science Teacher

I am pleased to write this letter of recommendation on behalf of Ms. Rose Dunn in support of the Academy Teacher of Excellence Award. I have known Ms. Rose Dunn for approximately ten years. Throughout this time, she has consistently demonstrated her conscientiousness and genuine commitment to public education.  Ms. Dunn works well with the school and community, combined with her excellent verbal facility which enables her to express and present the Academy of READING well. 

As a teacher with more than 25 years of experience, Ms. Dunn has learned to meet children where they are and guide them. Sometimes it requires holding one hand longer than the other. A simple word of motivation or praise is needed to drive students, and a call to parents or grandparents to say a child is doing a wonderful job is not uncommon for Ms. Dunn. “All children want to learn and be successful, so why not give them your best?” Ms. Dunn said. 

Ms. Dunn enjoys incorporating the community into her reading class through the use of current events, television programs, stat from ball games, and election results. These and other strategies were used to motivate and encourage students. Intrinsic rewards play a vital role in raising a child’s self-esteem. Displaying student’s work on a wall and providing extra time in learning groups has made a world of difference. Ms. Dunn is a valuable asset to Chastain Middle School because she possesses the skills, ability, experience, and a broad base of knowledge. 

Academy of READING Teacher of Excellence – Finalist

Sheila Richardson, Music Teacher, Key Elementary School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Katrina Jones, Interventionist

Mrs. Sheila Richardson is a music teacher at Key Elementary.  She has taught for 30 plus years.  Her dedication to her students is unimaginable. She is always willing to go far and beyond the call of duty to help not just her students on Academy but ALL students at Key Elementary with Academy of READING and Academy of MATH. 

Whenever Mrs. Richardson is not teaching music she is always in the computer lab with students.  She even pulls her scholars while teaching her music classes.  Mrs. Richardson is awesome and truly a blessing to Key Elementary Staff and is always rewarding not only her Academy students, but the Academy teachers as well.  She writes PBIS pillars daily as an incentive. She is also always spending money for clothes, shoes, food, etc. to help students.  Mrs. Sheila Richardson is truly an inspiration to Key Elementary students and staff.


Academy of MATH Student of the Year – Winner

Jordyn, 4th Grade, Oakstead Elementary School, Land O Lakes, FL

Nominated by Tammy Holliday, Support Facilitator

Jordyn is highly motivated by the Academy of MATH program and it is evident in her gains over the course of the school year.  In September 2014, Jordyn was performing at a Below Basic performance level for a fourth grade student, with a 1.7 level.  When she post-tested in April 2015, she scored at an Advanced level after 18 hours and 58 minutes in the program.  She has completed 101% of her program and has mastered 80 skills.  With an end of the year level of 5.6, Jordyn demonstrated an increase of 3.9 levels. 

Not only has she shown growth within the Academy of MATH program, I have seen her confidence in math increase tremendously over the course of the school year.  This in turn has also increased her math performance in the classroom and on standardized district level assessments. I am so proud of Jordyn and would love for her to be recognized for her accomplishments and dedication to the Academy of MATH program.

Academy of MATH Student of the Year – Finalist

Xavia, 5th Grade, University Charter School, Lemoore, CA

Nominated by Chris Brainard, Teacher

In August of 2014 we used the Academy of MATH Placement Test to identify specific needs for our incoming 5th grade students who have performed below grade level in math.  Xavia was one of those students.  Xavia scored at a Below Basic level with a 1.7 level on the placement test.  Xavia began the program in August and she worked diligently for 21 hours over 7 months to complete the program.  Her enthusiasm and joy to learn never waned during this entire period.  She continually demonstrated the learner qualities of self-awareness, reflection, questioning, and perseverance.  On the post-test Xavia scored at a 5.6 level - an improvement of 3.9 levels!  Xavia’s confidence in her mathematical ability has improved tremendously and this has transferred into her regular math class.  Xavia is definitely our Academy of MATH Star!

Academy of MATH Student of the Year – Finalist

Promise, 6th Grade, Powell Middle School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Christine Castilla, Interventionist

Promise enjoys math and always proves that she can do whatever task is given.  Through sickness and other situations, she has overcome and far succeeded the skills assigned to her and has even helped other students that found certain skills difficult.  In the math placement test in Academy of MATH, Promise scored 1.6 - Below Basic.  At the end of the year Promise scored 4.7 - still Below Basic but moving up 3 grade levels.  She was assigned 91 skills in math and mastered 101 skills.  She mastered 97% of them at the required level for mastery.  In Path Driver to Math she began the year with a national percentile rank of 3 and a class percentile rank of 5.  At the end of the year she ranked on the 43rd percentile nationally and 73rd percentile among her class.  Promise has worked hard and has made great gains.

Academy of MATH Teacher of Excellence – Winner

Glenda Blair, Teacher, Cherokee Central High School, Cherokee, NC

Nominated by Kathy Ausen, Educational Consultant, TE21 Inc.

You really should see her in action! 
Ms. Glenda Blair teaches at Cherokee Central High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs School in Cherokee, NC.  Ms. Blair is a natural Academy of MATH teacher.  If you’ve ever wondered what qualities allow a teacher to successfully shepherd students through the Academy of MATH, your answer can be had in a day by observing in her classroom.
With the support of her Principal, Deborah Foerst, Ms. Blair’s goal was high: to bring the math skills of Cherokee Central 9th graders, who scored from 1st to 8th grade on their pre-test, to grade level.  Can one teacher reach such a lofty goal using one period per day?  Yes she can if that teacher is Glenda Blair.
To start, Ms. Blair organized documents for tracking the progress of each student.  Students were put in charge of their own progress sheets.  Their tracking sheets would show them the exact number of skills mastered and the number needed to finish the program.  With the ultimate goal mapped, each student then set daily and weekly goals and marked them on the tracking sheet.
For the first three weeks of the semester, Ms. Blair ran an Academy of MATH Boot Camp for all 9th graders.  Under her tutelage, students mastered as many skills as possible during their math class.  At the end of Math Boot Camp the Academy of MATH was continued during the school’s Flex Period.  Ninth grade Academy of MATH students were divided among Ms. Blair and six other teachers.
Ms. Blair then devised a tracking system for each class and incentives for those students who reached their goals.  She kept the tracking systems current and distributed rewards to students in each of the Academy of MATH classes. 
By year’s end, Cherokee Central’s 9th graders made 1.5 years gain in math.  Three of Ms. Blair’s class of 12 Academy of MATH students graduated and her class completed an average of 62% of the program.
How does Ms. Blair help her students overcome their deficiences in math?  Were you to sit in her class, you would see her outline expectations for class behavior.  Ms. Blair’s students know two things for sure:  1) she is glad they’re in her class today and 2) they are expected to master at least one Academy of MATH skill before leaving.
You would see Ms. Blair in constant motion:  she is in the corner checking on a laptop that won’t boot, and on the other side of the room to see why her student can’t get a perfect puzzle in division word problems.  She’s then on to another student who needs help understanding part of the tutorial in measurement. 
Ms. Blair’s sense of humor keeps the room light so mistakes seem fixable.  Students who struggle know that help is on the way.  Ms. Blair’s endurance allows her to go all day long working with student after student after student.  Her easy, friendly personality allows students to let down their guard and ask for assistance. 
As a 9th grader, it can be difficult to admit that you’re working on 4th grade math.  Ms. Blair always makes it acceptable to ask any question – however simple or complicated.  She reminds her students often that tenacity will allow them to win in the end.
When asked which was his hardest unit, Ms. Blair’s student, Tony Bernhisel, immediately said, “Fractions”!  What did he do to finally master fractions?  “I got help from Ms. Blair until I got the hang of it.  I would write it down and she showed me how to do it.  I would get frustrated if I had to do too many trials.  But with enough practice I always finally got it.  I finally learned to take my time, not to rush and not get frustrated."
And for students who don’t ask for help?  Ms. Blair will cajole, repeat, explain, urge, repeat again, suggest, encourage, check, coax, describe - and then do it all again during the next period.
On those days when one set of hands is not enough, Sebastien Brun, Cherokee Central Middle and High Math Lead Teacher lends advice and help.  When he’s not in the classroom he is organizing, planning, obtaining rewards,and devising motivations to aid student progress.
I wish you could see Ms. Blair in action!
You may feel exhaused watching as she works her magic.  But you would never again take an Academy of MATH teacher for granted!

Academy of MATH Teacher of Excellence – Finalist

Dionne Young, Academic Tutor, Powell Middle School, Jackson, MS

Nominated by Christine Castilla, Interventionist

Ms. Young is a dynamic teacher with a caring heart.  She strives diligently to ensure that her students are achieving to the best of their abilities.  She works hard to motivate her students.  In her class, students know that it is a safe and encouraging environment in which to learn.  Her classroom management skills are such that students always behave in a mannerly fashion, even if they are working in groups.  Her students have made amazing gains in Academy of MATH this school year.  In fact, her students were part of a contest in the Jackson Public School District to see who could master the most skills in the month of February.  All middle schools in the District were included.  Ms. Young's 3rd period class mastered the most skills and her 5th period class won 2nd place.  My Young is very energetic, and a hard worker.  In addition to working with Academy, she also works with school extracurricular activities and helps to provide technical support for online testing.

Academy of MATH Teacher of Excellence – Finalist

Tammy Holliday, Support Facilitator, Oakstead Elementary  School, Land O Lakes, FL

Nominated by Tamera Kimpland, Principal

Tammy and her team of three other teachers work on a weekly basis, all year long, four days a week, to help our most struggling fourth and fifth graders. She helps the students in a lab setting and they assist and monitor the students to help with any struggles they might have or to celebrate their successes. She charts and keeps track of the student's math growth and makes sure to let the children know on a weekly basis how they are doing. When students get stuck on a problem, her team is there to assist the students so they do not get discouraged. In addition, the team consults with the classroom teacher to see if any additional practice is needed on a particular skill. Tammy and her team are dedicated beyond belief and make the kids feel proud of their accomplishments.