During her three years at Jones Intermediate School, fourth-grade math teacher Amanda Berry has been an agent of change for her school and district. When Mount Airy City Schools received a $1.6 million MAPSS (Math and Project-Based Learning for Student Success) grant, Berry was one of three teachers in the first cohort to transform her teaching from teaching-centered to student-centered and implement project-based learning (PBL). Assessments have captured impressive results: Grade-level proficiency improved from 50% to 63.56%, and Berry’s students exceeded the average by more than 10 percentage points. Jones Intermediate, a high-need school where 64% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, scores in the top 4% of all elementary schools in North Carolina.
Berry's classroom is a model of best practices. Project-based learning allows her to challenge students intellectually, identify and maximize student strengths, and differentiate lessons for students at all learning levels. She gives students consistent, appropriate feedback that both celebrates their accomplishments and provides support for areas of improvement. Berry involves parents in their children's learning, teaching them how to ask probing questions as students work on projects at home. Students lead family conferences in the classroom to show parents their work. Berry's innovative instruction and excellent results have earned her the respect of her colleagues; many of the classroom observations Jones Intermediate requires of teachers happen in Berry's room, with colleagues standing in line to watch her in action. A certified PBL trainer, Berry worked with Wake Forest University and the University of Texas at Dallas to lead professional development for the second cohort of MAPSS teachers in her area.
Berry pioneered Jones Intermediate's first-ever grading policy, outlining the school's belief that grades should reflect only content acquisition and not be comparative or punitive. She also crafted the school's first homework policy, making the "flipped classroom" (where students review short video lessons at night and spend classroom time on projects, discussion and exercises) the expectation rather than the exception. Berry chairs her grade level, leads a Professional Learning Community and serves on the school's new Media and Technology Advisory Committee (MTAC). The role of the committee is to determine Jones' digital learning needs and craft a plan of action to accommodate them. She also introduced PBL to at-risk students in Jones Intermediate's after-school Future Leaders Academy. Holding high expectations for both students and herself, Berry motivates students to do their best, builds trust, and creates a learning environment where students are striving to improve.
Berry earned a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies from Texas A&M University in 2007.
"Kids are a work in progress, as we all are. It's so unfair for us to judge them based on what they have done or how they have acted..." (read more)
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