Her fifth graders fidgeted nervously at first and then sat transfixed by the details of the note. When it became clear that the American colonies were the jilted party writing the letter to the British, the students burst out in laughter as they realized Bryan had successfully tricked them into learning.
Bryan, Teacher of the Year for both T.R. Simmons Elementary School and the Jasper City Schools System, knows what works and what doesn’t after 12 years as an educator.
“When you see what the kids get excited about, you want to give them more of that. You want them to love learning, and I’ve found that doing everything from a textbook is not going to keep their interest,” Bryan said.
The subjects that Bryan teaches, science and social studies, lend themselves to hands-on learning.
She jokes with her fellow teachers on the fifth-grade hall that she gets to be “the fun one,” and she embraces her classroom’s reputation as “the messy room” because there is always something exciting and educational going on.
Next week, for example, Bryan’s students will be making dioramas of their favorite scene from the American Revolution.
Once that project is completed, crickets and fish will be brought into the classroom as they learn about ecosystems.
The school system is doing what it can to help teachers keep today’s kids motivated by making more technology available in the classroom.
Bryan is unfazed by her students’ textbooks gathering dust as long as another resource, such as a BrainPOP video, can present the same material in a way that they are more likely to remember.
“Our lesson plans from two years ago are not going to work anymore. You’ve got to constantly stay on top of things because Pintrest and all of these other new resources make finding really exciting lessons a lot easier,” Bryan said.
However, man hasn’t invented a device yet that can replace a truly dedicated teacher.
T.R. Simmons Principal Suzanne Snow said it is no surprise that the committee whose task it was to select the 2013 Teacher of the Year unanimously picked Bryan.
“She is so deserving,” Snow said. “She pulls to every child’s strength, and she differentiates their instruction so that they will be successful and will understand what is being taught.”
Bryan said she is flattered that her principal, co-workers and the student and parent who also serve on the committee thought so highly of her. However, she insists that a strong team of teachers is an important part of her success.
“We really work well together, and it’s because of the other three teachers on my hall that I can do what I do,” Bryan said.
Bryan is T.R.’s first Teacher of the Year to advance to the district level.
The other Teachers of the Year for Jasper City Schools in 2013 are as follows:
Memorial Park — Lori Wallace
West Jasper — Beverly Simon
Maddox Middle — Eric Rigsby
Walker High — Ray Hessler.