During her three years at Jones Intermediate School, fourth-grade math teacher Amanda Berry was 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 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 was a model of best practices. Project-based learning allowed her to challenge students intellectually, identify and maximize student strengths, and differentiate lessons for students at all learning levels. She gave students consistent, appropriate feedback that both celebrates their accomplishments and provides support for areas of improvement. Berry involved parents in their children's learning, teaching them how to ask probing questions as students work on projects at home. Students would lead family conferences in the classroom to show parents their work. Berry's innovative instruction and excellent results earned her the respect of her colleagues; many of the classroom observations Jones Intermediate requires of teachers happened 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 and third cohort of MAPSS teachers in her area. She was also recruited to join a writing team in the final year of the grant, and wrote problem and project based learning cases for a state repository.
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 chaired her grade level, led a Professional Learning Community and served 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 would motivate students to do their best, build trust, and create a learning environment where students were striving to improve.
Berry left the classroom after winning her Milken and began her work as an Instructional Facilitator. After working with curriculum for almost 5 years, she has recently accepted a position as an Elementary District Math Coach for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County school system.
Berry earned a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies from Texas A&M University in 2007 and later her Masters in School Administration from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in 2019.
"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)
2019 Masters in School Administration University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
2007 B.S., Texas A&M University System