Lesley Snyder creates innovative, purposeful learning experiences that motivate and engage her students at Dutch Fork Middle School in Irmo, South Carolina. She challenges the eighth graders in her honors classes to think independently and holds every student to the same high standards. Lessons include real-world examples and career connections, with parents, administrators and community members often joining the class for hands-on learning experiences. Snyder incorporates project-based learning, with semester-long “passion projects” and units where students use cross-curricular learning standards to create and code video games. Thanks to Snyder’s strategies for teaching text-dependent analysis, students leave her class as strong, confident readers and writers—one student even published a book inspired by a classroom project.
As English Department head, Snyder makes sure her team has everything they need to help students thrive, especially during the stressful pandemic period, when Dutch Fork has cycled through periods of virtual, hybrid and face-to-face instruction. Under her leadership, Dutch Fork turns out the district’s highest scores on state assessments in reading. Snyder worked with the University of South Carolina (USC) to develop PBL curriculum and professional development that has been shared throughout the state. She earned PBL endorsement from the Advancement of Workforce and Knowledge Economy Center at the University of South Carolina’s College of Education, a professional development initiative funded by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Snyder mentors new teachers and is an evaluator for fifth-year renewal teachers. She serves on the district’s leadership committee for secondary English language arts, and completed the district’s Leadership Academy for Aspiring Administrators.
Snyder’s passion for diverse instruction and pushing all learners to reach their full potential is contagious. When she co-taught with a special education teacher, half the class had Individualized Education Plans in reading comprehension, fluency and writing; by the end of the year, the special education students performed at the same level as their honor’s student peers. Snyder helped students produce high-quality audio projects for the National Public Radio Student Podcast Challenge and is a mentor for Dutch Fork’s Pearls, a group focused on developing a growth mindset, building positive self-image and improving interpersonal skills. Outside of school, Snyder brings her teaching skills to an entirely different subject: aerial yoga.
Snyder earned a bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and a Master’s in Education Administration from the University of South Carolina in 2016.
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