Understanding that student engagement is critical to student success, eighth-grade English and Language Arts teacher Kristi Grooms builds relationships with her students anywhere she can—in the classroom, on the playing fields and on school publications—all efforts that pay off in student achievement. She often shows up at her students’ sporting events at Dutch Fork Middle School and has served as basketball and softball coach, which she views as an extension of her classroom teaching. Grooms’ students complete a soundtrack of their lives, using songs to explain who they are. The result is students who want to be in her class and parents who second the request. Under her tutelage students who have struggled in other classrooms find their academic footing in hers.
As chair of the English/Language Arts department, Grooms has jumped on the Common Core initiative, leading the school’s efforts to meet state standards. In the meantime, her classroom writing scores outperform state averages by more than 8 percent and most of her students meet or exceed their MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) goals each year.
An educator for nine years, Grooms has hosted teacher cadets from neighboring high schools as well as student teachers from the University of South Carolina. New teachers at Dutch Fork are often placed on her team to learn from her best practices.
Noting how strongly her students responded to Holocaust teaching, Grooms applied for and was one of only 20 teachers selected for the Vladka Meed Summer Program for Teachers of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance. She traveled for three weeks in Poland and Israel, and studied at the National Institute for Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem. Now she uses the culturally and historically rich experience to engage her students in related literature and as a point of departure for personal growth. But Grooms wants her students to travel, too, and took the initiative to organize a trip to Washington, D.C., for eighth graders, which has become an annual tradition at Dutch Fork.
For Grooms, relationships don’t end with the school year. After serving as a foreign exchange teacher in Germany, Grooms still keeps in touch with her foreign students and faculty members. Just as she doesn’t forget her teachers, Grooms’ students don’t forget her. High school students return to discuss their college options and have her review their applications. They express pride in letting the educator who inspired them know that they are continuing to pursue academic and personal excellence.
South Carolina Dept. of Education | Dec 30 , 2013 | Columbia, SC
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