Kaitlin McPeake creates magical learning environments that get students so excited you’d think they were spending the day at Disneyland. The fourth-grade science and math teacher at Rocky Ridge Elementary in Hoover, Alabama, transforms her classroom into hands-on learning environments that are rigorous, engaging, and ultimately lead to increased student achievement.
McPeake’s Electrical Engineering Academy includes multiple stations where students tackle real-life electrical problems led by parents and other community members with engineering and STEM backgrounds. For Shark Tank, students research, design, and present products to community judges.
During Glowometry Day, black lights and glow sticks bring an added dimension to geometry problems. All McPeake’s classroom transformations include costumes, creative props and tools, and STEM multidisciplinary challenges. Her efforts are models for others: Many of her Rocky Ridge colleagues have followed her lead and now create similar high-energy immersive environments in their own classrooms.
McPeake’s classroom draws the best out of each student. Students take on rich tasks where they must collaborate, critique their own work and redesign. She meets with students to set learning goals, providing multiple pathways to meet their targets. Before lessons, the class decodes the learning standards, which appear next to each question on tests and assignments so students can see which standards they need to work on when they correct their work. McPeake creates review kits that provide multiple ways for children to relearn material, including watching teaching videos, playing educational math games, reteaching to a friend, or creating their own board games and videos. She goes the extra mile to connect with each child and build meaningful relationships. McPeake is determined to create the environment she always wished she had: one where students can flourish, believe they can improve, and are proud of themselves for taking ownership of their learning.
A leader in the building and district, McPeake helms the grade level and STEAM teams. She mentors student teachers, presents at school conferences, and facilitates professional development on topics like the National Writing Project, STEAM in the classroom, room transformations and engagement strategies. McPeake created a morning math club for grades three through five, leading almost 100 students at all levels through differentiated math challenges. Her GEMS (Girls Engaging in Math and Science) team has presented at the state level for the past three years; Rocky Ridge is the first school in the district to have GEMS groups at all grade levels. Colleagues credit McPeake with helping Rocky Ridge earn international STEM accreditation and growth from 86 to 92 percent on the Alabama Report Card. Every Monday, McPeake sends an inspirational message to the entire staff to motivate them for the week ahead. When COVID-19 closed school buildings suddenly in the spring of 2020, she helped colleagues create Google Classroom sites and adjust their instructional practices to virtual instruction.
McPeake earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2013 and a master’s in educational leadership in 2018 from the University of West Florida. She is a Google Certified Instructional Leader and is pursuing her National Board Certification.
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