In Liz Barnum’s third grade classroom at Katherine Dunn Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, students work together to participate in their learning and reach their potential. Barnum focuses on meeting each child’s individual needs and uses data to drive her instruction, creating engaging lessons that challenge the class and spur a love of learning. Student-led discussions, partner talks, and visual strategies support literacy goals for vocabulary and comprehension. Barnum’s classroom is a safe environment where students feel confident taking risks. Barnum’s instructional strategies reflect Katherine Dunn’s mission to “develop proficient readers, writers, and problem-solvers who practice divergent thinking.” Almost all of Barnum’s students meet grade level by the end of the year, regardless of where they started. Their SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) proficiency rates are among the district’s highest: In grade 3, her students placed within the top five percent in math proficiency and ranked third in ELA proficiency among the district’s Title I schools.
Barnum leads Katherine Dunn’s third grade professional learning community (PLC), examining data with colleagues to plan future instruction. Washoe County School District is focusing on PLCs as part of a districtwide strategy to spread and scale instructional excellence and equity. Barnum, whose team has become a model for the district, shares key learnings so others can become more effective in their own classrooms. She mentors new and student teachers and serves as a teacher leader in the School Performance Plan process, a collaborative annual effort by education leaders and families to revise the school’s strategic plans to improve student and school outcomes.
Barnum builds strong relationships with students and families. She communicates with families frequently about their children’s strengths and achievements, and parents often visit Barnum’s classroom for student-led conferences, projects and presentations. As Katherine Dunn’s community has diversified, Barnum has played a big role in incorporating Latinx cultural practices and celebrations into the school culture to ensure new students and their families feel included.
Barnum earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2008 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Master of Education in 2016 from Grand Canyon University.
Press release: Data-Driven Student Success Earns Nevada Teacher Liz Barnum a $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"I love being a part of my students' lives, as much as they are of mine. They always have a huge impact on me."Liz Barnum (NV..." (read more)
2016 M.A., Teaching Engilsh to Speakers of Other Languages, Grand Canyon University
2008 B.A., Elementary Education, University of Nevada Reno