In Heather Hurt’s fifth-grade class at Vestavia Hills Elementary School Central in Alabama, reading lessons don’t stop when the last page is turned. After students read Balloons Over Broadway, a book about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, they studied the history of the parade and its decorative floats, described their own float concepts in an essay, turned their designs into miniature floats, and created a small-scale three-dimensional model of New York City. Students then programmed LEGO MINDSTORMS robots to pull their floats through their model city.
Hurt is dedicated to making history, geography and science come alive in her classroom. Students use everything from Google Presentations to green screens to teach their peers about national parks. To learn about colonial history, Hurt’s students role-play the events of the Boston Tea Party via Skype with “actors” from the Boston Museum. Hurt created the first Colonial Days program for the school’s 17 fifth-grade classes, involving her peers, administrators, special educators, parents and community members. During the popular event, students experience a colonial “house” via virtual reality and travel from class to class learning about everything from ironworks to making candles. Hurt encourages students to pursue STEM “passion projects”: One group created a website to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis, while another built a robot to help people with disabilities pick things up. When the projects were complete, parents and community members came to Hurt’s class to see them.
Skilled at differentiating curriculum, Hurt uses summative and formative assessments to identify what students already know and tailors her instruction to move them forward in their learning. She serves on the school leadership team, participates in the district’s Teacher Leader Cohort, and has led professional development in the building and across the district. Hurt takes a child-centered approach and is committed to meeting all her students’ needs: educational, social and emotional. During her class award ceremony, Hurt tells parents and visitors not only about students’ achievements, but also about their positive character traits. A graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, Hurt spent more than a decade working locally as a realtor before entering the classroom.
Hurt earned a bachelor’s in business management from the University of Alabama in 2001 and a master’s in education from Samford University in 2013.
“I teach because I love the passion kids can have behind learning. I teach because I love making kids excited about math and science and..." (read more)
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